Home NATIONWIDE Scientist Advocates for Balanced View of Environmental Impact at Palawan Mining Congress

Scientist Advocates for Balanced View of Environmental Impact at Palawan Mining Congress

MANILA, Philippines – Dr. Carlo A. Arcilla, a distinguished professor from the University of the Philippines Diliman College of Science, delivered a thought-provoking discourse on the complex relationship between mining and the environment during the recent PIO PALAWAN Stakeholder’s Congress on Mining and the Environment.

Shedding light on the geological concept of watersheds, Dr. Arcilla encouraged discerning between strong anti-mining sentiments and the reality of mining operations, highlighting the prevalence of mining activities in watershed areas, such as in the United States.

“We have to protect water resources, I agree, but when you say no activities in watersheds, nothing will happen,” he noted, and further underscored the repercussions of enforcing a ban on quarrying—an open-pit mine—which will hurt the construction sector.

Dr. Arcilla remarked that mining, although visually unattractive, involves environmental trade-offs like tree cutting and tailings production, which impacts can be mitigated by science and engineering. However, he asserted that the real environmental threat lies in practices like kaingin, which cause more significant harm to forests than mining.

“I respect NGOs but maybe one of these days, listen to scientists also,” he said. Notably, he was the only scientist who spoke until the second day of the event

Addressing misconceptions about the Philippines’ mineral wealth, Dr. Arcilla clarified that while the country has abundant minerals, their concentration is lower compared to leading mining countries like South Africa, Chile, Russia, Australia, and Indonesia.

He also highlighted the comparatively small mining footprint in the Philippines, which accounts for less than 3% of the total land area, compared to other mineral-rich countries. With 30 million hectares of total land area, Dr. Arcilla stressed that only 0.873% or 2.91% is used for mining, despite 9 million hectares having potential—which raised questions about the disproportionate perception of the impact of mining on the environment.

“How can something that small have so much evil?” he said. “If you stop mining in southern Palawan, what will become of the livelihoods of the people there?” continued Dr. Arcilla.

The Top 100 Asian Scientists laureate pointed out that misinformation stems from misconceptions regarding the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA), which may appear to cover large areas, such as 6,000 hectares, but often represents a much smaller actual area to be mined—typically less than a hundred or two hundred hectares.

Dr. Arcilla concluded with a call for a reassessment of mining policies, advocating for thorough audits and transparent governance to weed out erring mines while empowering responsible ones, and proposed empowering regulatory bodies like the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) to ensure independent oversight and enforcement of environmental standards.