DAVAO CITY, Philippines—An environmental group expressed dismay on the decision of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau for reversing the mining reforms implemented by former environment secretary Gina Lopez, a day after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte concluded his first year as the country’s chief executive.
According to Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, the MGB legal division said on the sidelines of a forum in Quezon City that its full review of Lopez’s directives concluded that her administrative order prohibiting open-pit mining has “no legal basis.”
“The Mines and Geosciences Bureau virtually announced the sweeping reversal of mining industry reforms undertaken over the course of the Duterte administration’s first year. It seems ‘lobby money talks’ once again under the reign of DENR chief Roy Cimatu,” Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of the Kalikasan PNE said in a statement on Friday.
Bautista said the MGB’s review covered Lopez’s cancellation of 75 Mineral Production Sharing Agreements as well as the imposition of a P2-million trust fund to each mining company.
“The nationwide mining audit conducted by the DENR under Lopez found that 68 percent of commercially operating big mines have various deficiencies and violations of mining and environmental regulations and warrants suspension or closure. Isn’t the logical next step to treat this at least as a strong indicator that warrants a more comprehensive scientific, socio-economic, and legal investigation?” Bautista said.
Clemente said the MGB and DENR should support independent investigations on why open-pit mines are rejected in communities.
“There should be a moratorium on open-pit mining at the very least until open-pit mines are investigated and stricter regulatory regime is in place,” he said.
Clemente also said that a technical assessment on all watersheds covered by the 75 cancelled MPSAs and the rehabilitation costs that mining companies should be shouldering is needed.
“Instead,we get a suspiciously quick review of the mining reforms. There should be a clamour against this seeming lack of scientific rigor in reviewing the mining reforms under Lopez, the way critics of Lopez decried her supposedly arbitrary directives,” he said.
The environment network urged the Duterte administration to prioritize the pursuit of a new national mining policy over the following year of 2018 to address the deep-seated problems caused by unfettered big mining projects.
Currently, the existing national mining policy is being reviewed by the House of Representatives through House Resolution 72 filed by Agusan del Norte First District Representative Laurence Fortun and House Bill 2715 or the People’s Mining Bill proposed by Bayan Muna Party-list Representative Carlos Zarate to re-orient the mining industry towards national industrialization, agricultural modernization, and environmental safety.
“Duterte should stop the mining lobby apologists in government from exploiting the patently anti-people and anti-environment provisions of the Mining Act of 1995. Duterte should throw his full political will into the continuing onsite investigation of mining projects groups in aid of legislative efforts to pass House Bill 2715 or the People’s Mining Bill in Congress,” Bautista said. (davaotoday.com)