SURIGAO CITY – Militant groups across the Caraga region have thrown their support behind the efforts of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez and the Duterte administration to rid the country of irresponsible miners.

Around 500 members of the Caraga Watch, a coalition of progressive environmental and workers groups in the industrial and agricultural sectors, staged a rally in front of the regional office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in this city last Thursday to manifest their support.

The activists said the Duterte government's declared policy for responsible mining has their full backing -- a position welcomed by the MGB, a line bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

"This is the first time in my over 25 years in the service to have witnessed such a display of support from the left-leaning organizations here in Caraga, expressing their optimism in the government’s effort at environmental governance in the mining sector,” said MGB-Region 13 Director Alilo Ensomo Jr.

The rallyists belong to militant groups Nagkahiusang Gamayng Minero (NAGAMI), Anakpawis, Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.

Caraga Watch officials held a one-hour dialogue with Ensomo, during which they expressed their appreciation to Lopez for her eagerness to hear the struggles of local and indigenous peoples in Mindanao that were caused by erring mining firms.

In a position paper, Caraga Watch said Lopez’s advocacy bodes well for the region and its people as “dagku ugpaturagas nga pagmina nga nagresulta sa pagkadaut kinaiyahan sa rehiyon” (the time has come to stop indiscriminate mining that results in environmental destruction in the region).

The rallyists also decried the prevailing contractualization in the mining industry in Caraga and called on the DENR leadership to list it as a priority concern in its agenda for the region.

In response, Ensomo said: "While the government is clamping down on contractualization in the country, the DENR commits to put mining contractualization on the spot light of its agenda."

Data from MGB-Region 13 show that Caraga is home to one of the world's largest iron ore deposits, and largest nickel and gold deposits in the country with significant reserves of copper, chromite and coal.

At present, the region remains basically agricultural as mining only accounts for 3 percent of the region's employment.

With over 20 operating large-scale mining companies, Caraga is known as the country’s de facto mining capital. ###