En­vi­ron­ment depart­ment presses Mala­cañang on clo­sure of mines

Business World - - FRONT PAGE - Eli­jah Joseph C. Tubayan

THE DEPART­MENT of En­vi­ron­ment and Nat­u­ral Re­sources ( DENR) has asked Mala­cañang to clear the ex­e­cu­tion of its clo­sure or­ders on 23 min­ing projects, DENR Un­der­sec­re­tary Maria Paz G. Luna said yes­ter­day.

“[ The DENR] filed a mo­tion to ex­e­cute be­fore the OP ( Of­fice of the Pres­i­dent) be­cause there is a stay of ex­e­cu­tion; any ap­peal in­cludes a stay of ex­e­cu­tion. So we filed a mo­tion to ex­e­cute with­out a stay [ or­der]…” Ms. Luna told re­porters.

En­vi­ron­ment Sec­re­tary Regina Paz “Gina” L. Lopez last Wed­nes­day ac­cused Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary Sal­vador C. Me­di­aldea of hold­ing on the ap­peals of the sanc­tioned min­ers, in ef­fect pre­vent­ing Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo R. Duterte from ren­der­ing fi­nal judg­ment.

Mr. Me­di­aldea promptly coun­tered that such ap­peals go to his of­fice and not to Mr. Duterte di­rectly.

Ad­min­is­tra­tive Or­der No. 22, is­sued on Oct. 11, 2011 and which sets rules for ap­peals to the Of­fice of the Pres­i­dent, pro­vides in part that “[t]he ex­e­cu­tion of the de­ci­sion/res­o­lu­tion/or­der ap­pealed from is stayed upon the fil­ing of the no­tice of ap­peal...”

“De­pend­ing on how the Pres­i­dent sees the dam­age that are go­ing to be caused by a con­tin­u­a­tion of the op­er­a­tions (of min­ers) based on the vi­o­la­tions baka na­man mag- de­cide siya na ma- grant ang am­ing ( he might grant our) mo­tion to ex­e­cute,” Ms. Luna said.

Ms. Lopez had also ac­cused Mr. Me­di­aldea of block­ing the DENR’s Jan. 20 or­der re­quir­ing each sanc­tioned miner to put up a trust fund amount­ing to P2 mil­lion per hectare of “dis­turbed land” be­fore get­ting a per­mit to trans­fer ore it al­ready has in its in­ven­tory.

NOT MINE-FREE, BUT…

Hours af­ter Ms. Lopez bared her row with Mr. Me­di­aldea, Mr. Duterte said in a speech on Wed­nes­day night in Pasay City that while he could not grant her wish for a “mine-free” Philip­pines, he sup­ported her move to be “strict” with min­ers.

“Si Gina na­man told me frankly, ‘ I want the Philip­pines to be mine-free’,” Mr. Duterte re­called.

“Sabi ko: ‘ how can we do that?’ We have to amend the law. There’s a min­ing law which al­lows min­ing,” he added.

“And be­sides we get on the av­er­age P70 bil­lion a year ‘ yan ( in es­ti­mated gross value added to the econ­omy) from th­ese min­ing com­pa­nies.”

But Mr. Duterte pro­ceeded to say “but I agree with Gina” that min­ing projects he has seen have dam­aged their host ar­eas.

Ra­mon C. Casi­ple, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute for Po­lit­i­cal and Elec­toral Re­form, said Mr. Duterte’s lat­est re­marks — es­pe­cially in the wake of Ms Lopez’s rev­e­la­tion just hours ear­lier of a spat with one of his close as­so­ciates — shows he sup­ported her.

“Duterte still stands by her, de­spite enor­mous pres­sure from min­ing in­ter­ests, it seems,” Mr. Casi­ple said via text.

DENR’s Ms. Luna said her depart­ment has so far sub­mit­ted a mo­tion to ex­e­cute for just one of the sanc­tioned mines that had ap­pealed to the Of­fice of the Pres­i­dent, but that it ex­pects to sub­mit the 22 others within the month.

“We’re hop­ing, as soon as pos­si­ble. I’ve al­ready edited a draft of one res­o­lu­tion of a MR (mo­tion for re­con­sid­er­a­tion) today. If we can do one mo­tion ev­ery­day or ev­ery two days, then one month for all the MRs,” she said, not­ing that all 23 mines or­dered closed — out of a to­tal 41 op­er­at­ing metal mines na­tion­wide — had ap­pealed to Mala­cañang.

There were five other op­er­at­ing mines or­dered sus­pended in early Fe­bru­ary.

Later the same month, DENR had or­dered 75 other mines in pre-oper­a­tion stage to ex­plain why they should not be sanc­tioned sim­i­larly.

MINE IN­SPEC­TIONS TAR­GETED IN MAY

Emerg­ing yes­ter­day from a meet­ing of the re­cruit­ment team of the tech­ni­cal work­ing group of the Min­ing In­dus­try Co­or­di­nat­ing Coun­cil — which is pre­par­ing to con­duct a sep­a­rate re­view of all mines na­tion­wide at in­dus­try re­quest — Ms. Luna said “[ h]ope­fully by Fri­day next week the MICC can ap­prove the list (of re­view team mem­bers) al­ready.”

“We’re hop­ing to con­tract them right af­ter that, if the bud­get is out,” she added, re­fer­ring to the P50-mil­lion es­ti­mated bud­get for the re­view.

“Every­one wants it to hap­pen as soon as pos­si­ble. So the re­al­is­tic timetable is they can start their trav­els to the mines, af­ter they are con­tracted, around May 2.”

MICC es­ti­mates the re­view teams — which will be com­posed of five mem­bers spe­cial­iz­ing in so­cial devel­op­ment, eco­nomic im­pact, tech­ni­cal op­er­a­tions, le­gal com­pli­ance and en­vi­ron­men­tal man­age­ment — will need three months to com­plete their tasks.

Be­fore Mr. Duterte as­sumed of­fice at noon of June 30 last year, the min­ing in­dus­try had al­ready been reel­ing from a mora­to­rium on new per­mits that has been in place since 2011 and ex­tended in­def­i­nitely through Ex­ec­u­tive Or­der No. 79 — which had es­tab­lished the MICC — signed by former pres­i­dent Benigno S.C. Aquino III on July 6, 2012. —

THE CHAM­BER of Mines of the Philip­pines es­ti­mates a to­tal of 1.2 mil­lion peo­ple, in­clud­ing mem­bers of min­ers’ fam­i­lies, will be ad­versely af­fected by the on­go­ing crack­down on the in­dus­try.

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