On Common Good and Subsidiarity

On Common Good and Subsidiarity

A PHRASE very often heard from anti-mining advocates is “Common Good”. You need more than your fingers on one hand to count how many times someone like the DENR secretary-designate mentions this term while making a one-hour PowerPoint presentation, and more than your fingers on your two hands if the presentation is even longer.

Many anti-mining advocates are happy to lift this term from the encyclical of Pope Francis that is more popularly known as “Laudato Si”, his critique of our values and lifestyle that at the root of our current environmental woes. Not mining, mind you - which he only mentioned in one paragraph (#51) out of the 246 numbered paragraphs of his encyclical; but more because of our “wasteful” and “shameless” consumption that is driven by media and market forces.

When you and I are driven to buy, buy, buy because of advertisements we see on TV, then business has to produce, produce, produce.

And how do you produce goods that consumers demand without resorting to the use of natural resources?

But I digress.

So on the one hand you have the “common good”. But on the other hand you have another important principle of human existence and human rights and self-determination, that which is termed “Subsidiarity”.

Under this principle, people are empowered to determine for themselves how they are to live, of course always (just as the Common Good) within the bounds of law. This is what allows a province like Mindoro, for example, under then Governor Josephine Satio, to declare itself “mining free”. Can we force mining on them? Of course not. They were acting within the law and the principles of Subsidiarity and the Common Good as applied to themselves.

Why then should I, living in Metro Manila, stage rallies and launch petitions online to force them to accept mining?

But the reverse is also true. If a province like Surigao del Norte or Del Sur decides that it is their policy to encourage responsible mining, can we force them to reverse policy? Of course not. Their decision is within the law and within the principle of Subsidiarity and the Common Good as applied to themselves.

Why should I, living in Metro Manila, stage protests and launch online petitions to force them to reject mining?

It all sounds so good when we are advocating for the Common Good. It makes us feel selfless and not selfish, makes us value being part of a greater whole. But unwittingly arguing for the 77can and oftentimes does become tyrannical when we ride roughshod over the individual rights of others, specifically their right to decide for themselves what their fates and futures are to be. And the tyrannical nature of common good activism is most evident when people from urban areas – students specially, not to mention trolls! – demand the closure of responsible mining operations elsewhere that in the process denies students in those areas – who are able to go to school because of school buildings and scholarships that responsible mining operations provide them – the very opportunities that would bring them out of poverty!

To think that the production of mining activities in the remote provinces are the basic ingredients and raw materials of the products that sustain the type of lifestyles of the urban areas - from cement to nickel to copper to steel and even gold!

And if you remain skeptical of the damage caused by the tyrannical nature of “common good” activism, think of these statistics. The Philippines has a land area of 30 Million hectares. Of the 30 million, only 270,000 hectares are covered by mining permits and only 81,000 hectares are actually being mined. Let’s assume the impact area of mining is five times the actual land area being mined, then the total

Impact area of mining in the Philippines is 400,00 hectares. That’s a little over 1%!

So... “common good” activism of people living in 99% of the country is imposing limitations on the activities of people living in 1% of the country!

This is even worse when you realize that much more damage to the environment (think about permanently damaged watersheds!) and to health (talk about polluted air!) is happening in our urban areas where tens of millions of people are at risk daily of diseases due to air and water pollution.

So beware of the tyranny of common good activism, and of common good activists. They want to feel good at the expense of those whose right to subsidiarity must be respected and recognized.