The Non-Human Living Creatures Affected by Mining Are Also Knocking on Your Door, Mr President. Will You Give Them Their Due Process Rights, Too?

Elpidio V. Peria
15 February 2017


Mt. Matutum and its surrounding  biodiversity (EVPeria)

It was strange to read in the news the mining industry thanking the President for giving them their due process rights when on the face of it, as reiterated by Sec. Gina Lopez, the mining industry and its affected members were given enough opportunity to make their views known during the mining audit. For a law practitioner to hear such invocation, like what we usually encounter in run-of-the-mill labor or criminal case, this kind of plea is usually the basis for later asking for the nullification (pagpapawalang-bisa) of the entire proceedings that resulted in the alleged harm to the petitioner, in this case, the closure of the mining companies. The news yesterday indicated the list has grown to 75 companies.

The alleged failure by the DENR to give these companies a copy of the full audit report is something that the DENR should not have done though we are not familiar with the nitty-gritty aspects on how the DENR followed through on the procedural and substantive due process rights of the mining companies, the DENR has a legion of lawyers to respond to the lawyers of the mining companies on that issue, we leave that issue to them.

What we will do instead in this blog post is to speak in behalf of the non-human living creatures (the mountains, rivers, streams, forests, flora and fauna, even microbes and fungi, all of which assemblage of life which are not human and are collectively known these days as “biodiversity”) whose voices seem to be absent in all this debate whether to accord due process rights to the miners closed down by DENR Secretary Gina Lopez.

If we follow Sec. Gina Lopez’s pronouncements, she did what she has done because of the communities living near mining sites that suffer as a result of the mining operations in the closed sites.

The companies also decry the supposed and some say, inflated, number of employees that will lose their jobs though I heard a suggestion from a call-in listener last Saturday in a radio program in DZRH hosted by the rowdy group of Amb. Teddy Boy Locsin that these companies should show whether they were that religious in paying the SSS contributions of these employees, to show and prove the actual number of people who will lose their jobs.

Amidst all the noise and din, who has spoken directly in behalf of the non-living creatures that were already or are about to be destroyed by mining?

There is none for the moment, but it can be the President who may act in their behalf, especially when he was quoted in a news report that if mining companies cannot restore the sites they have mined, then they should just remain closed, which view indicates some sense of an ethical concern by the President towards the environment, as such.

In the realm of environmental ethics, the central problem being debated is the anthropocentrism (human-centric) of the news report supposed rationale for our actions towards the earth, all of which boils down to the supposed benefits of the bounties of the earth for the well-being of the human species.

As explained by Andrew Brennan in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, environmental ethics questioned the assumed moral superiority of human beings to members of other species on earth and in the second place, it investigated the possibility of rational arguments for assigning intrinsic value to the natural environment and its non-human contents.

Some of these arguments he mentioned to favor the value of non-human living creatures at least equal to that of human beings range from the “deep ecology movement”, which endorses “biospheric egalitarianism”, the view that all living things are alike in having value in their own right, independent of their usefulness to others, to the feminist view that human exploitation of nature may be seen as a manifestation and extension of the oppression of women, in that it is the result of associating nature with the female, which had been already inferiorized and oppressed by the male-dominating culture.

Another strand of environmental ethics cited by Brennan is Murray Bookchin’s “social ecology” perspective which takes the “outer” physical world as constituting what he calls “first nature”, from which culture or “second nature” has evolved. Environmentalism, in his view, is a social movement, and the problems it confronts are social problems. Bookchin regards human intervention in nature as necessary, to be placed at the service of natural evolution, to help maintain complexity and diversity, diminish suffering and reduce pollution. For him, the exploitation of nature should be replaced by a richer form of life devoted to nature’s preservation.

All or some of these philosophical perspectives may be picked up by the President and his advisers as gems of wisdom that should inform how the exploitation of the country’s natural resources through mining should be carried out from hereon, which gives equal footing to biodiversity vis-a-vis mineral resources and  people, especially now that the President has to decide whether to uphold DENR Secretary Gina Lopez’s closure order on the mining companies in the country.

Should the President uphold the order in its entirety, this is the kind of change that will signal to the mining industry that in this administration, non-human living creatures (also known as biodiversity) are assiduously taken into account in government decisions.


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