I have challenged the mining industry to provide evidence of at least one case of a town that developed through large-scale mining. Up until now, they cannot provide a concrete example.Danny Arias
The quote above vividly captures the recent conflicts on the role of mining and social development in the Philippines. Danny Arias, responsible for linking local communities to national campaigns against large-scale mining, contests the possibilities of transnational investments bringing long-term economic development to a country characterized by challenging geographies for mineral extraction, political violence and a history of socioenvironmental disasters. Importantly, his critique opens up an important intellectual space for academic research that places questions of rights, agency and political mobilization as key organizing concepts in understanding why the ‘logic of globalization’ is neither inevitable nor necessarily desirable. As the pace of neoliberal reforms intensifies in the region, ordinary people – especially those with limited material and political resources – make justice claims in very difficult circumstances, sometimes not always successfully, in order to alter the configuration of global and local power structures.
Danny Arias's position reflects two important countervailing ideas about neoliberalism and development in Southeast Asia, which we will develop in this chapter. First, Arias's critique reflects the contestation of a neoliberal model of mining management expressed specifically by local political actors sidelined in national political debates. Market reforms in the natural resources sector involved designing complex privatization and liberalization policies. The consolidation of a national anti-mining movement indicates the strength of resistance against foreign direct investment (FDI)-led, large-scale mining (as opposed to mining per se). The movement links the diverse efforts of activists, community leaders and the Catholic Church to think about alternative policy paradigms in the mining industry. Civil society actors question the promise of mining-led development, particularly the government's strategy of attracting transnational investments as a way of spurring growth and raising the contribution of mining to the country's exports, revenues and potential for technological development. In addition to the national movement, local communities and regional elites have also challenged the normative commitment of the government towards private capital participation through a nuanced critique of large-scale mining. These actors have come to constitute a somewhat unified political voice against neoliberalism as a development paradigm.