Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Miners call Lopez ‘grossly unfit,’ lobbying to derail DENR confirmation

Posted on February 14, 2017

THE Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (CoMP) said it hopes to present its case against the confirmation of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary-designate Regina Paz L. Lopez before the Commission on Appointments.
In a position paper sent to reporters on Monday -- filed by CoMP Chairman Artemio F. Disini, Executive Vice-President Nelia T. Halcon, Vice-President for the Legal and Policy division, Ronald S. Recidoro, the signatories designated by the CoMP board -- the officials said that Ms. Lopez’s “recent actions and pronouncements as DENR Secretary show an undeniable bias against and antagonism towards large-scale mining.”

Such positions, the paper added, make Ms. Lopez “grossly unfit” and “incapable of responsible, fair, just and balanced” implementation of existing laws including the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.

In a text message on Monday, Mr. Disini confirmed the paper’s submission to the Commission on Appointment’s Committee on Environment and Natural Resources.

Mainly, the paper questions Ms. Lopez’s decision-making in the run-up to ordering the closure of 23 metal mines and suspension of five others following a nationwide audit of these environment management practices launched in July.

“In the pursuit of her agenda to discredit and marginalize the mining industry, Lopez has short-cut legal and administrative processes, disregarded vested rights, and even ignored the sanctity of contracts between the government and its Mining Contractors,” according to the paper.

“I don’t like mining, the foreigners and the rich are the only ones benefitting from it, but the farmers and the fishermen suffer,” the CoMP quoted Ms. Lopez as saying in a June news report on her acceptance of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s offer to lead the DENR.

The chamber also questioned her refusal to consider open-pit mining, noting that such activities are allowed by the law.

“As DENR Secretary, she should know the law...,” CoMP said in its paper.

The CoMP officials also described as premature her threats to close down mines prior to the release of the preliminary audit results on Sept. 27.

“The companies concerned were vilified on national television without any prior notice of suspension or closure, nor the requisite show cause letter... ,” the paper added.

CoMP said any specific findings of violations of the Mining Act of 1995, or of terms of the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA), should have been filed with the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).

The Philippine Mining Law of 1995 gives the MGB authority “to cancel or cause the cancellation after due process, mining rights, mining applications and mining claims for non-compliance with existing laws, rules and regulations.”

Meanwhile, violations of the conditions of any Environmental Compliance Certificate should be addressed by the Environmental Management Bureau, whose director is empowered to issue a Cease and Desist Order to prevent grave or irreparable damage to the environment.

Ms. Lopez said 15 of the 23 mines ordered for closure were operating in “functional watersheds,” a violation CoMP said should have been defined, otherwise “absolutely no mining anywhere because the entire archipelago consists of watersheds, as every land form has water underneath it.”

Section 19 of Republic Act 7942, provided, among others, that mining permit applications shall not be allowed in “proclaimed watershed forest reserves.”

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