Church condemns mining but owns shares in Philex

Published by rudy Date posted on May 24, 2011

THE Chamber of Mines on Monday slammed the Catholic Church for condemning all mining activities in Palawan when some of its members own shares in a mining firm.

Chamber head Jerry Brimo produced before a breakfast forum in Makati a report of Philex Mining Corp. listing the shares in the company owned by the Archbishop of Manila, the Religious of the Virgin-B, and the Archbishop of Zamboanga.

The report for the quarter to March 31, 2011, listed the Archbishop of Manila as owning 3,221,135 shares in the copper and gold mining firm, the Religious of the Virgin-B with 3,125,777 shares plus another 1,091,027, and the Archbishop in Zamboanga with 1,116,147 shares.

“How can the Catholic Church give its moral backing to environmental advocates in Palawan protesting against mining in general?” said Brimo, head of Nickel Asia Corp. in the province.

Church-backed activists on the island blame mining as the main cause of environment degradation there and for the political tensions that led to the murder of environment broadcaster Jerry Ortega in January.

But Brimo said it was the small and illegal mining operations that were affecting the biodiversity in the province, destroying its forests and displacing its farmers.

Advocacy groups should “refrain from using half-truths and negative spins” on Palawan’s environmental issues as they were very damaging to the mining industry, he said.

“Mining companies are heavily monitored, and are accountable to government authorities and to the host communities where they operate,” Brimo said.

By contrast, the small miners were mining illegally and not being regulated.

Brimo said the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development had directly attributed the denudation in the province to the continuing harvest of timber for domestic use, the continuing conversion of forest land into farmland, and the continuing migration of people to the island to gain from tourism, which had been pushing its population growth rate to 3.5 percent annually.

He said the tracts of land segregated by the local government for mining were “mineralized” areas not conducive to intensive agriculture.

“Mined out lands are left better off than natural forests,” Brimo said.

“Mining concessions are [ordered] to rehabilitate these tracts of land and are forested with fruits trees that sustain the wildlife in the eco-systems.”

Environmentalists are said to be bristling over the 122 mining applications filed before the provincial capitol, saying those would ruin the island further if approved.

Brimo heads Rio Tuba Nickel, a large-scale nickel mine in Batazara south of Palawan, Berong Nickel in Quezon municipality, and Citinickel in Narra and Española towns. –Rey T. Salita, Manila Standard Today

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