By Jonathan L. Mayuga - January 25, 2017
Mining’s big players under the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) continue to hold on to President Duterte’s promise to weed out irresponsible mining while helping the industry grow to achieve its full economic potential through responsible mining.
This, as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is set to announce the final mine-audit results on February 2.
The fate of 30 mining companies that failed the initial audit conducted by the DENR last year hangs in the balance, as the DENR tightens the screw on mining through a strict audit criteria that includes environmental, biodiversity and social considerations.
Ronald Recidoro, vice president of COMP, said this is the meat of the message delivered by Environment Undersecretary and Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Director Mario Luis Jacinto during the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp. (Jogmec) seminar on sustainable development of mineral resources at the New World Hotel in Makati City last Monday.
To recall, barely one week after she assumed office on July 1, Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez immediately ordered a review of all 41 operating metallic mines in the country.
Based on the initial results released last September 27, only 11 mining companies “passed” the audit, with 10 mining operations slapped with suspension and 20 others facing possible suspension failing to meet environmental standards.
Among the major findings of the team were violations of the terms and conditions of the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) and Department Administrative Order (DAO) 2010-21, or the revised implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act (RA) 7942, otherwise known as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, and DAO 200-98, which refers to Mine Safety and Health Standard.
On the other hand, as part of an ongoing audit of ECCs, the DENR had ordered the cancellation of at least 11 ECCs for various mining projects that Lopez deemed as potentially destructive to the environment and will cause people to suffer.
The DENR chief, a passionate biodiversity advocate, is a known critic of large-scale mining. She vowed to come up with the result of the mining audit by the end of the month.
She said the DENR, headed by mining audit head and Mining and Geosciences Board Assistant Director Danilo Uykieng, is currently evaluating the reply and responses of the mining companies to the show-cause orders.
During his brief talk, Jacinto, a geologist and a consultant to several mining companies prior to being appointed by President Duterte, assured stakeholders and investors of the government support, despite the feeling of uncertainty hounding the mining industry.
“What the good DENR official wants to tell the industry is that President Duterte remains committed to responsible mining,” Recidoro said.
No other DENR official, he added, understands the language of the minerals development sector better than Jacinto because of his experience as MGB official and consultant to mining companies in Mindanao for decades.
“For me, his assurance that only responsible mining will be allowed under the Duterte administration is very much welcome,” Recidoro said.
He noted that Jacinto, during an earlier meeting with businessmen in Davao City last November, set four major criteria for mining to be allowed.
The criteria, which calls for mining projects to be environmentally, technically, financially and socially sound, only means that the government is serious in helping the industry grow and contribute to economic growth and development, Recidoro said.
Speaking during the Jogmec seminar, Jacinto stressed Duterte is keen on having all industries contribute to the country’s development.
Guided by “real change with compassion”, Jacinto said, “for a genuine and meaningful change in mineral resources development, the President has given these marching orders for the mineral industry: ensure responsible mining; adopt the best internationally accepted practices; and maximize the benefit for the people and the communities in all possible ways.”
The MGB official reiterated that under the Duterte administration, “responsible miners have nothing to fear”.
“The challenge is to squarely address legitimate concerns; provide proper information to have a shared perspective of development options, and patiently reason with oppositors to set aside unreasonable demands,” Jacinto said.
He added that host communities must be involved in environmental protection and enhancement programs—and must also have a sense of ownership of the social-development plans in their respective communities.
Jacinto also assured investors of an environment conducive for business with government fighting crime, stopping corruption and working toward lasting peace.
According to Jacinto,the government will study policies to best position the country in the world minerals, market while information sharing with the industry stakeholders will be pursued at every opportunity.
“Geological maps and reports, geohazard maps and studies, and watershed maps already available will be provided to and analyzed with industry partners to have a common appreciation of the areas with potential for development and identify the elements at risk in the different areas,” he said.
Jacinto said the mining industry will continue to be a potent force in nation-building if coupled with a commitment to do things right and make responsible mining a way of life.