Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Mining woes far from over; Lopez asked on audit basis

Published February 6, 2017, 10:00 PM by Madelaine B. Miraflor

The woes at mining sector is far from over as the number of organizations and stakeholders asking Environment Secretary Gina Lopez to reveal the exact and more detailed audit reports started to pile up days after she decided to close down 23 metallic mines and suspends five more.
This, while the country’s biggest miners began appealing directly to President Rodrigo Duterte to review Lopez’s action because it is not just “unfair” but also “illegal.”
The head of the country’s national geological institution is now calling on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to make public the basis for her directive on the closure of 23 mining operations and the suspension of five others.
According to him, this will enable future engineers and geologists to learn from Lopez’s decisions and determine how to best enforce responsible mining practices.
Dr. Carlos Arcilla, the director of the University of the Philippines’ National Institute of Geological Sciences, said that while he  agrees with Lopez that irresponsible mining operations should be shut down, he is puzzled as to why Lopez had not furnished the mining firms copies of the mining audit, which should have been the basis for ordering their closure and suspension.
 “We are in agreement that the irresponsible mines should be closed. No argument on that. That is the purpose of the audit – technical people checking whether the mines are fulfilling the obligations under law to protect the environment,” Arcilla said.
“We are interested to know what the bases are for closing mines – we have to teach future geologists and engineers the correct and scientific ways to mine so as not to endanger the environment,” added Arcilla.
Arcilla also raised a question as to why the DENR barred technical personnel of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), who conducted the mining audit, during the time when the final audit results were announced.
Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, which comprised most of the country’s biggest miners, believes the same thing, saying it was apparent there was “widespread chaos” in Lopez’ department.
“The basis for the mine closures have not been made public, and they have not been given to the mines that are to be closed,” Arcilla said. “This tells me that the main basis for mine closures is emotion, superficial impressions.”
Arcilla pointed out that engineers and scientists who have spent years studying mining and other extractive industries should be the ones relied upon in cleaning up the mess caused by irresponsible mining practices.
“Those who claim they are the only people who can clean the environment and the only people who love the environment and this country, without adequate training are seriously misguided. They are even dangerous if they dictate policy,” Arcilla further said.
Meanwhile, COMP on Monday began appealing directly to Duterte for his intervention against Lopez’s decision.
“We respectfully appeal to the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte to thoroughly review the actions of the DENR Secretary-designate relating to the minerals sector, and their serious repercussions to the country as a whole as they are without basis, fairness and legality,” Art Disini, chairman of COMP, said.
“She violated due process – which is an inherent part of the rule of law – and did not give proper notice by consistently refusing to release the results of the audit to the affected parties,” he added.
According to him, Lopez’s actions have finally revealed her true bias, which is to stop all mining in the Philippines.
“Beyond the mining companies, the Secretary-designate’s intent to close the mining sector poses a danger to other industries. The logistics companies who provide drilling, construction, hauling and shipping; processing companies; manpower and transportation service providers; even those in the education and health sectors will be seriously impacted by the actions of the Secretary-designate,” Disini said.
“Other strategic industries such as energy and petroleum are also being shackled and slowly strangled to death by stopping the issuance and processing or cancelling of existing Environmental Compliance Certificates,” he added.
Lopez said in a statement on Sunday her decision was consistent with her “non-negotiable” stance against irresponsible mining.
Unfazed by skepticism over her decision, Lopez said over the weekend that she can prove that “green economy” can provide more jobs than destructive mining.
She even assured alternative livelihood opportunities to affected mine workers and their families.

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