By Butch Fernandez & Jonathan L. Mayuga
The Senate, taking the cue from President-elect Rodrigo R. Duterte’s stand against “illegal and irresponsible” mining activities, is set to firm up initiatives to protect the environment, while ensuring fair and rational sharing of profits among all stakeholders in the mining industry.
“As a starting point, there must be a faithful implementation of the Mining Act and the small-scale mining law,” Sen. Juan Edgardo M. Angara said.
He told the BusinessMirror that the incoming Duterte administration “will be in such a position, as to punish violators who do not fulfill the conditions set forth in their mining arrangements with the government.”
“Perhaps, going forward, Congress can look at how it can further strengthen capabilities for enforcement on the ground,” Angara added.
Senate Deputy Minority Leader Vicente C. Sotto III pushed for a “full-blown” Senate inquiry prior to crafting remedial measures that would merge the interests of business/job creators, represented by members of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) and, on the other, the government’s duty to protect the environment.
“First of all, the Senate Committee on Environment must call [for] a full-blown hearing, which should include all stakeholders,” Sotto said. “Then we can assess the necessary legislation to control and safeguard the different concerns.”
Comebacking Sen. Richard U. Gordon prodded the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) to quickly assess the reported damage to the environment, “if [there’s] any.”
In a brief interview, Gordon also stressed the need for a regular oversight of all mining operations and, at the same time, assess the kind of support to be extended to key players in the industry.
This, even as big players in the mining industry earlier assured Duterte that they do not condone illegal and irresponsible miners.
The COMP has affirmed it does not tolerate illegal and irresponsible mining, including the supposed “small miners” reportedly being condoned by some local government units (LGUs).
In a news statement issued early this week, the chamber also assured the government it continues to look for ways to provide social development and management programs “to include indigenous peoples and environment enhancement.”
The COMP, which is composed of large-scale mining firms, likewise, affirmed its commitment to work with the Duterte administration in addressing concerns of the mining industry, in order to “promote true inclusive growth” in the country.
Duterte earlier warned major players in the mining industry to shape up and stop harming the environment.
He suggested that the mining industry be run like a cooperative, in which even small players would benefit.
Manicani Island case
IN a related development, the antimining group Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) on Tuesday urged the DENR to stop mining operations on Manicani Island, in the town of Guiuan, Eastern Samar.
Stopping the operations of the Hinatuan Mining Corp. (HMC), according to the ATM, should include the hauling and transport of mineral ores from the island to be processed elsewhere.
The island is part of the Guiuan Bay Protected Landscape and Seascape (GBPLS), a key biodiversity area (KBA), by virtue of Presidential Proclamation (PP) 469. The proclamation states that mining operations in KBAs and protected areas (PAs) should be stopped, and that no-go zones map should be updated and be fully implemented.
Many KBAs in the Philippines remain unprotected, despite their status as a PA covered by the National Integrated Protected Area System (Nipas) Act. According to the Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc., a network of over 250 non-governmental organizations, the poor implementation of the Nipas Act is to be blamed for the deterioration of some PAs, such as Manicani island.
Manicani Island is covered by the GBPLS by virtue of PP 469, signed by former President Fidel V. Ramos, who declared the coastal areas of Guiuan and the neighboring islands, such as Manicani, Candulo, Suluan, Tubabao, Calicoan and Homonhon and their surrounding reefs, as protected landscape and seascape in 1994.
Manicani Island’s ecosystem has been severely damaged by the operation of a large-scale nickel mine for almost two decades. Despite the declaration as a PA and an order stopping large-scale operation on the island in 2002 by the DENR, people on the island complain that hauling of nickel stockpiles by the mining company persists.
According to the ATM, Manicani is a small island with only over 3,000 farmers and fishermen residents. The island has a fragile ecosystem, and is already facing the impacts of damaged environment.
The situation on Manicani Island, the ATM added, is aggravated by the impacts of climate change during the onslaught of Supertyphoon Yolanda in November 2013.
Manicani residents have earlier called on the DENR-MGB to issue an order canceling the mining permit it issued to extract mineral ores on the island.
Call of the communities
THE ATM believes that the government agencies must listen to the call of the communities for the cancellation of mining permit on their island.
According to the ATM, the hauling of nickel ores since May 15 was condoned by the MGB Region 8 without consulting the affected communities.
The same incident happened in June 2015, when employees of HMC attempted to haul its nickel- ore stockpile.
The ATM said communities, led by Save Manicani Movement that set up barricades in the periphery of the stockpile, continue to cry foul over the DENR and the MGB’s inaction to support miners and demand justice for the destruction and impact caused by mining.
The ATM proposes that the Manicani Island, among many small island ecosystems in the country, be declared as a “no-go zone.”
Why is it that reporters cannot even name mining companies that have repeatedly violated environmental laws such as that mining company that backed Roxas. If the press would demand Digong to name names, then the press should also name names. Otherwise Digong is totally right. The press is fully paid and bought for and deserves to be killed for being corrupt.