A CIVIC group has asked President Aquino to suspend all mining activities in the country for at least two years to allow time for the issuance and implementation of a “rational mining policy” that will correct the “relaxed regulatory and permitting procedures to entice investors to come in at the expense of local autonomy, environmental and ecological balance, asset reform, and human rights.”
Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), said President Aquino should not cower under the pressure of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, Mindanao Business Council, and other private sector groups that have already voiced opposition to a still unissued executive order (EO) that they believe will be anti-mining.
“Contrary to the negative reaction of key players in the mining industry, we believe that a new executive order should be able to address pressing issues on the environment, especially now with the increased impacts of climate change and disasters experienced in the country,” Garganera said.
Earlier, the Chamber of Mines and other business groups have warned Malacañang against proceeding with the issuance and implementation of a draft EO titled “Institutionalizing and Implementing Reforms in the Philippine Mining Sector, Providing Policies and Guidelines therefore, and For Other Purposes”.
“We do not believe that any government policy should be labeled as ‘anti-mining’ simply because it does not favor the mining industry. We would like to pursue a rational mining policy that addresses the many problems raised since the aggressive promotion of mining in the Philippines,” Garganera said.
He said while the EO will alter the provisions of the Mining Act of 2005, the presidential issuance can at least improve or revise the implementing rules of the Mining Act, repeal inconsistent and disadvantageous provisions from earlier EOs like EO 270-A, and clarify and emphasize the implementation of already existing national laws, policies and regulations that are directly related to mining (e.g., Local Government Code on the roles of LGUs or IPRA and the need for genuine consent from indigenous peoples).
The EO, the group said, should create more mechanisms or venues for better coordination between government, mining industry and civil society on matters relating to mining, integrate new national laws and policies that were not yet enacted in 1995, like Climate Change Act or the Disaster-Risk Reduction (DRR) law, and streamline procedures and processes that need updating, specifically on permitting procedures, or monitoring and regulatory aspects of the mining operations or payments of taxes and royalties.
Garganera said with a moratorium on mining activities, the government will be able to review first the status of all mining projects and applications, and determine their compliance to national laws, and requirements.
“We have documented cases of at least 12 current mining projects and applications that have various issues and problems, most of them substantial. Unless and until the specific problems and issues for a particular mining project or application is addressed, then live projects and pending applications must be suspended. My personal estimate is that a two-year moratorium will be a good start to do the comprehensive review/study of all mining projects and applications,” he said.
ATM, he said, is hoping that the Minerals Policy Review Group, which prepared the controversial draft EO, did its homework and considered the problems on deforestation and environmental protection, local government opposition to mining, and transparency and accountability.
The group, Garganera said, is not totally opposed to mining.
“We see the important role of minerals in our industrialization and national development efforts. What we are opposing, however, is the aggressive promotion of mining in the whole country, as embodied in EO 270-A of PGMA [Former President Gloria Arroyo], and this policy was inherited by P-Noy [President Aquino]. We disagree with the basic policy of EO 270-A, that the whole Philippines is open to large-scale mining operations, and that the regulatory and permitting procedures were relaxed to entice investors to come in,” he said.
However, before mining activities are allowed to continue, the group said the following conditions must be met first:
1) Resolution of pending cases at the DENR, CHR, NCIP and OP that implicate mining projects and their violations of specific national laws;
2) Resolution of cases in RTCs or the Supreme Court, that relate to the writ of Kalikasan or the Temporary Environment Protection Order (Tepo) issued by courts against mining operations (e.g., Anislagan, Surigao del Norte, Marinduque, Zamboanga del Norte);
3) Mining projects area able to complete their requirements, especially consent from LGUs and FPIC from indigenous peoples;
4) We must first complete our forest delineation. We must clearly pin-point where are the remaining forests, the critical watersheds and the important biodiversity areas. Once these are completed, we must identify the “No-Go Zones” for mining;
5) We must complete the national geo-hazard maps, overlay these with the existing mining tenement maps, and decide which areas cannot be opened for mining, simply because there are too many risks and vulnerabilities.
6) We must subscribe to a transparency and accountability mechanism for the mining industry. Currently, the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative is waiting for the government to enroll, and complete the titling and registration of ancestral domains of indigenous peoples.
This way, we are sure who and where are the IPs that will be impacted by mining, and the mining industry will actually find it easier for them, since they now know who are the legitimate IP leaders they need to negotiate with, and where are the boundaries of these ancestral domains within their mining sites. – Business Mirror