Mining and deforestation cause flooding and landslides in Davao

This article is available in PilipinoBisayaHiligaynonIloco

For almost a month now, the Davao and Caraga regions have been suffering from flooding and landslides caused by rains brought by strong winds followed by storm conditions. As of February 2, 772,000 individuals were recorded affected and 409,000 were displaced from their communities. In the last report, 17 people died, including a family buried in a landslide in Barangay Mt. Diwata, Monkayo on January 18.

Millions worth of crops were damaged and many roads and bridges were destroyed. According to data from the National Risk Reduction and Management Council on February 4, damages to crops in Davao and Caraga have reached ₱173.79 million. Most affected were farmers in Compostela Valley and Davao del Norte. Widest hit were rice fields.

Damage to infrastructure meanwhile reached ₱27.05 million in Region IX. Floods and landslides destroyed bridges and farm-to-market roads that are often weak or poorly constructed along parts cut off from mountainsides.

Mindanao-based democratic and environmental groups blame the damage and tragedy on ongoing destructive mining operations, mostly foreign-owned, and deforestation on the island. In 2019, the Mines and Geoscience Bureau issued more than 100 permits for mining in the Davao region alone. It covers more than 32,000 hectares of mountains in Davao Oriental; over 15,000 hectares in Davao del Sur and quarry operations in Davao City.

In addition are state-sanctioned operations to plunder the Pantaron mountains, the largest mountain range in Mindanao.

Among those named by the groups are three mining companies in the protected Mt. Hamigitan in Davao Oriental (Sinophil Mining & Trading Corporation, Hallmark Mining Corporation, Austral-Asia Link Mining Corporation); the St. Augustine Gold and Copper Ltd focused on the King-king Copper Gold Project in Pantukan and the adjacent towns of Compostela Valley/Davao de Oro; and three other mining companies in Talaingod, Davao del Norte (One Compostela Valley Minerals, Inc, Phil. Meng Di Mining & Development Corporation, Metalores Consolidated, Inc.)

Among those named, the one with the largest coverage is Metalores Consolidated Inc, having been granted a permit to plunder over 15,000 hectares of forests and mountains in Talaingod. Not as expansive, but as destructive is the open-pit mining of the King-king Project of St. Augustine Gold and Copper Ltd, owned by the Villar dynasty, one of the country’s largest bureaucrat-capitalist families.

Lumad groups and farmers have long been resisting firmly these mining operations and its accompanying deforestation because of the serious damage these cause to their communities, the environment and the people of Mindanao.

Where are the funds?

Davao City itself is not safe from calamity, where 15 relatively low-lying barangays were submerged in the flood. Water overflowed from six tributary rivers of the Davao-Bukidnon River that flow from Pantaron in the San Fernando, Bukidnon area.

As of January 31, it was reported that 8,000 people were forced to evacuate due to neck-deep floods in some areas.

Because of this, questions arose concerning the use of funds poured by the Department of Public Works and Highways in the past three years to the office of Paolo Duterte, congressman of the city’s first district. It was recently exposed that allocations worth ₱51 billion for Duterte’s eldest son were inserted into the budgets from 2020 to 2022. Budget insertions are exempt from public scrutiny. The allocations are also far bigger than the usual allocation to a congressman, or even a senator.

Davao City is lorded over by the Duterte dynasty. In addition to Paolo, who is representative of its largest and central district, his youngest brother Sebastian is the mayor of the city, while his wife January Navares is the captain of Barangay Catalunan-Grande and his son Omar is the captain of Barangay Buhangin (where flooding was severe).

Mining and deforestation cause flooding and landslides in Davao