Mining companies that passed the review of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) should not expect that it would be business as usual, an official of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said.
DENR Undersecretary for Climate Change and Mining Concerns Analiza R. Teh told the BusinessMirror that a report which indicated that the majority of mining firms hurdled the MICC audit is “premature.”
“It’s not yet final. The MICC resolution will still be reviewed by the DENR before Environment Secretary [Roy A.] Cimatu submits his recommendation to the President,” Teh said.
She said the MICC’s third-party experts are from the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) and the Development Academy of the Philippines.
“After the experts finished their review, it was presented to the DENR internally for further comment. After that, we came up with comments and it was integrated. The MICC’s comments were also integrated,” she said.
Five aspects, or criteria, were reviewed: economic, social, environmental, legal and technical.
To recall, the MICC was convened to review the mine closure and suspension orders issued by former DENR chief Regina Paz L. Lopez during a 10-month crackdown on large-scale mining operations. Most of those recommended for closure or suspension are nickel-mining companies.
The closure or suspension order was based on environmental, social and biodiversity criteria set by Lopez, triggering howls of protest from miners who appealed their case. Some filed their appeal before the Office of the President while some appealed to the MICC. Some companies filed a motion for reconsideration with the DENR.
The results for four of the five criteria, with the exclusion of the technical aspect, were completed. Teh said the technical aspect is still being finalized. She said the report of the audit or review of the mine closure orders will be revealed by August.
Teh added that the environmental aspect of the audit is still up for final review by the DENR, to make sure that the third-party experts’ findings and recommendation are “airtight.”
According to Teh, the Neda designed the review and came up with the standard questions used by the audit teams.
“There were surveys and the households were asked about all the aspects of mining,” she said. “There were, in fact, fears raised by communities about the possible pullout of mining operations, of losing their dole-outs.”
On the technical side, Teh said environmental experts were also involved. “There are marine biologists, forest experts.”
Teh said she does not know whether any of the technical experts are from environmental advocacy groups who oppose mining. Environmental groups are urging the Duterte administration to implement Lopez’s recommendation to sanction the mining companies. Her term was cut short in May last year, when the Commission on Appointments (CA) rejected her appointment.
She said the DENR is “very cautious” about letting mining companies off the hook, considering that President Duterte himself has warned mining companies to shape up.
“Actually, we are very cautious about coming up with the resolution because it was the President himself who had warned mining companies to shape up. So if ever mining companies will indeed be allowed to continue operation, it will no longer be business as usual,” Teh said.
On June 22 Finance Undersecretary Bayani H. Agabin said 23 of 27 were cleared by third-party experts commissioned by the MICC. Agabin also said only three nickel and one chromite mining operations did not pass the review.