The adoption of the Philippines Mining Act in 1995 opened up the proliferation of mining permits handed to foreign corporations. The Act facilitates the extraction of mining resources by foreign investors, but has very little value added for the local economy. The mining sector represents less than 2% of the Gross Domestic Product of the Philippines and employs less than 0.4 % of the labor force. And yet mining activities have serious negative impacts on the environment, particularly on the ancestral domains of Indigenous Peoples.
Empowering people affected by the negative impacts of mining was one of the main issues discussed at the Extreme Poverty and Human Rights workshop that took place in Quezon City, Philippines, from August 29 to 31. The workshop was coordinated by Franciscans International (FI) and the Franciscans Solidarity Movement of JPIC (Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation), in the context of implementing the Handbook "Making Human Rights Work for People Living in Extreme Poverty: A Handbook for Implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights,” launched by FI and ATD Fourth World at the end of 2015. Since the launch, FI has been promoting the Handbook and its rights-based approach both at the United Nations, and among its partners on the field, developing training material and workshops to ensure its implementation as widely as possible. The workshops stress hands-on action planning and the development of concrete advocacy strategies by the participants.
More than 50 participants from different regions in the Philippines, including partners working directly with affected populations living in extreme poverty, gathered for the workshop in Quezon City, with the aim to strengthen and develop advocacy strategies for a rights-based approach to corporate responsibility. The meeting was very timely, especially in the context of civil society’s current campaign to scrap the Mining Act of 1995 and to replace it with an Alternative Mining Management Bill (AMMB) that includes key accountability measures for mining corporations.
Participants committed to engaging in dialogue with government officials and agencies, to discuss policy reform towards poverty alleviation based on the UN Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, and to advocate for a human rights based approach in policies. They also highlighted the importance and their intent to raise awareness about the Guiding Principles at grassroots level, with teachers and parents in schools, and with sisters and brothers who work directly with affected communities.