02/08/2006, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Mining industry tells Arroyo non to let bishops influence her

by Santosh Digal
Mining executives call Bishops' Conference's views unacceptable. CBCP had reported cyanide spills into the Pacific Ocean.

Davao City (AsiaNews) – Mining executives in southern Mindanao have warned the Arroyo administration against giving in to the demand of Roman Catholic bishops to repeal the Mining Act of 1995. "That would be an undue influence, and we will not allow that," said lawyer Melanio Andresan of Philco Mining.

"If and when the President gives in to the demand of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to ensure the Church's support for her to remain in power, mining industry players will definitely stand in the way," he added.
Andresan warned the government that a change in policy would threaten indigenous peoples who would suffer the most from the suspension of mining activities.
Following the CBCP statement which slammed pollution caused by mining, President Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the suspension of mining activities in Bicol. She also directed concerned government agencies to put mining operations throughout the country under closer scrutiny.

Edgar Martinez, president of the Mindanao Association for Mining Industry Inc., said the mining sector would be on a collision course with the CBCP if the bishops insisted on their demand without bothering to listen to mining investors.

He said the CBCP statement had chilled foreign investors, including those who are not into mining but have other investments in the country.

Still, Martinez said mining industry leaders would continue talking to anti-mining groups for the good for the country.
The CBCP issued its statement following reports of two mining spills in Rapu-Rapu, Albay, which leaked cyanide into creeks leading to the Pacific Ocean. As a result of this, residents of Sorsogon province stopped buying fish, afraid that these were contaminated with mercury and heavy metals.
Lafayette Mining Inc., which operates the Rapu-Rapu mines, has denied using mercury in its operations. Its statement was backed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

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