Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004

About

@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

Mention the name Rodrigo Duterte and what comes to mind is the bloody “war on drugs” that has claimed the lives of more than 7,000 Filipinos.

Amid the continuing spate of killings in the Philippines, it is almost impossible to discuss the social reform agenda of Duterte’s government, which came to power less than a year ago.

But for various NGOs in the grassroots, the rise of a maverick politician like Duterte is an opportunity to push for meaningful reforms in society. After all, Duterte had a good working relationship with progressive groups when he was mayor of Davao City for more than two decades.

Despite the embarrassing human rights situation in the country, which worsened when Duterte became president last June 30, the present government has been quite aggressive in implementing several new policies that are expected to make a huge social impact.

Duterte is currently facing an impeachment complaint. There are also proposals for the UN and other global institutions to make Duterte accountable for the deteriorating human rights situation in the country. All these could have been avoided if Duterte had only chosen to give top priority to his social reform agenda.

Read more at The Diplomat

How the Mine Industry is Polarizing the Philippines

Mining investment surged in the Philippines in the past two decades but reactions are mixed whether its impact has been beneficial or destructive to the country.

The passage of a mining law in 1995, which provided generous tax privileges to the mining sector, was greeted by local and foreign companies as a great incentive to do business in the Philippines. Hundreds of mining applications were approved by the government which led to a boom in mining operations across the country.

Both the government and the business sector claimed that the revitalized mining industry contributed to the local economy in terms of jobs created, tax revenues, infrastructure development, community assistance, and export earnings. As mining firms continued to grow, they also became influential players in local politics by providing hefty campaign funds to political parties and dynasties.

But due to the inherent pollutive feature of mining operations, an anti-mining constituency led by environment groups emerged and expanded over the years. They were supported by church groups, activists, and even some local governments which passed ordinances and resolutions imposing a moratorium on open pit mining and metallic mining in their jurisdictions.

In the past, Duterte accused big mining companies of acting like oligarchs who are collaborating with foreigners. Duterte’s statement could be a hint of his intention to promote resource nationalism, but recently he revealed his other reason for supporting the suspension of some mines in the country. He said that big mine owners are funding the destabilization plots against his government.

Whether or not Duterte is sincere in backing the mining audit of the DENR, environment groups have found a solid cause to support the reform agenda of the government with respect to mining. Duterte badly needs this support since his government is being pilloried both at home and abroad for the deteriorating human rights situation in the country.

But if Duterte’s accusation against mine owners is true, then it is further proof of how mining money is causing bitter divisions in the country.

Excerpt of my article for The Diplomat magazine edition

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