The Mount’s Academic Lecture Series welcomed human rights defender and environmentalist, Marilou Verano, who is a Fellow from the Centre for Applied Human Rights at the University of York.
Marilou’s presentation looked at environmental degradation in the Philippines as a result of the mining industry. She discussed the effects on the environment and also on the local populations. She compared the economic impact of the industry on the economy, employment and population benefits; the statistics were woefully low. Despite massive land coverage over the Philippines’ 7,000-plus islands, the mining industry contributes less than 1% to GDP, employs comparatively few locals and contributes less than 0.4% in taxes.
Marilou examined the impacts that mining had on locales, including deforestation, pollution and siltation of waterways, chemical toxicity where cyanide was found in previously pure streams. “When you open the shells of the local crabs, they have almost no flesh inside, as a result of the pollution,” she said. Locals could no longer wash in the water without suffering from skin diseases. Air quality was also affected due to chemicals used to explode rock bases. A village of 4,000 residents reported a cluster of 1,100 residents suffering from tuberculosis.
The Philippines is also the world’s fith-most-dangerous nation for environmentalists. Marilou herself had been subjected to two lawsuits from large mining companies, accusing her of libel. She managed to win both cases, but each took three years to defend, at significant cost.
Marilou encouraged the audience to take steps to do their bit to combat climate change. She ended her presentation with a plea for people to keep doing good, to look after our planet. Questions from the audience looked at levels of corruption which allow the mining industry to continue despite rampant poverty and pollution it causes in what had until recently been a pristine ecology.
After the lecture, Peggy (Year 9) expressed how surprised she was to learn that the mining industry contributed so little to the Philippines’ economy, despite exploiting so much of its landmass. College girls approached Marilou to thank her for her lecture and for everything she is doing to protect the environment.