Beginning this week, the Philippines government will impose restrictions on the development of land for nickel mining. The new restrictions will limit nickel mining to a production area ranging from 50 to 100 hectares at any one time, depending on the size of production and whether there is a processing plant. Miners will also be required to establish a 20-meter buffer zone inward from the mining tenement boundary and near rivers and streams,where metals extraction will be prohibited.
The U.N. General Assembly voted last week to take a first step toward establishing a Global Pact for the Environment, a decision the United States opposed. The 193-member world body approved the resolution on a vote of 143-5 with seven abstentions. The United States was joined in voting against the resolution by Russia, Turkey, Syria and the Philippines.
At a UN oceans summit, delegates from China, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines said they would work to keep plastics out of the seas. It is estimated that 5-13 million tons of plastics flow into the world's oceans annually. The Helmholtz Centre in Leipzig, Germany, estimated that 75% of land-borne marine pollution comes from just 10 rivers, predominantly in Asia.
HUMAN RIGHTS AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS SURROUNDING MINING POLICY STALLS PHILLIPINE'S ECONOMIC GROWTH
The Phillipines is believed to hold around $1 trillion worth of mineral resources, but activists' opposition has stalled development and economic growth. Activists oppose mining development on the basis of financial fairness and environmental concerns. OceanaGold, a Canadian-Australian mining firm, earned $275 million in copper and gold sales last year, according to the Philippine Mines and Geosciences Bureau. Miners, some residents of the area surronding the mine, work for about a $1 an hour.
Phillipines Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, Regina Lopez, announced that new open-pit metal mining would be banned because of evidence of injury to communities and water supplies, and findings of rampant violations of environmental law. The ban extends to new open-pit gold, copper, nickel, and silver mines. The order to prevent new open-pit mines does not affect quarries and the country’s sole open-pit coal mine. Lopez says her mining orders are meant to prevent any more damage from big new mines.
The Philippines declared Cleopatra’s Needle, an area over 100,000 acres on the island of Palawan, as a critical habitat. Critical habitats are lands outside protected areas that have habitats or other features essential for the conservation of threatened or endemic species. The Cleopatra’s Needle Critical Habitat (CNCH) is almost seven times the size of the second largest critical habitat (Carmen Critical Habitat) and hosts about 85% of the mammals and birds endemic only to Palawan.
In the Philippines, progress is also being made on political promises. Last year, the Environment and Natural Resources Secretary stated her interest in shutting down the country’s mining industry as it causes significant environmental damage, an initiative supported even by the country’s President Duterte, who said the country could “survive without a mining industry.” Last week, the Philippines cancelled the environmental permit for four mining projects, for nickel, gold, coal, and iron and copper.
Over 1.09 million hectares of coastal and offshore waters in the Palawan province of the Philippines were recently declared a Marine Protected Area (MPA). MPAs limit and strictly regulate human activity in the designated space in order to protect natural or historic marine resources. The initiative, which is supported by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Fondation Segré, intends to reestablish the fish stocks in the Coral Triangle, as using MPAs to maximize fisheries production has proven to be an effective conservation tactic.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague declared China in violation of Philippine sovereign rights in the South China Sea. The dispute was taken to the PCA in January of 2013 by the Philippines after the Chinese Navy seized Scarborough Shoal, a chain of reefs and rocks off of a Philippine island. Under the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, only natural islands that can sustain human habitation would qualify for legitimate Chinese territorial jurisdiction of surrounding waters (up to 200 nautical miles in an exclusive economic zone).
On March 7, 2016, the Philippines approved a set of rules on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which came as a relief to farmers and importers but to the dismay of environmental activists. The rules will now be forwarded to the Department of Agriculture with an expectation that they will take effect by April 2016, and are intended to improve transparency in the approval process for GMO permits.