Published April 23, 2017, 10:01 PM By Madelaine B. Miraflor
San Marcelino, Zambales — More than a week before the Commission on Appointments (CA) finally decides on her confirmation, Environment Secretary Regina Paz Lopez has become more determined as she still sees the need to cancel more mining contracts, even those non-operational, that she thinks are putting the environment at risk.
Lopez said in an interview that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is out to cancel more mining contracts, even those that are non-operational.
This after she sent another show cause order this time to Luis Dizon, the owner of a mine in Zambales that was previously owned by listed company Dizon Copper-Silver Mines, Inc. (DIZ).
The DENR chief wants Dizon to explain why he can keep the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSAs) that would allow him to still explore the Zambales mine, which has been non-operational since 1997.
DIZ previously has 57 mineral claims in Barangay Buhawen, San Marcelino, Zambales with a total area of 513 hectares, which were developed and operated by Benguet Corporation (BC) for 20 years under the operating contract entered into by and between DIZ and BC in 1975, based on a document from the Philippine Stock Exchange.
After more than 20 years of occupation, exploration and operation of mineral claims in San Marcelino, Zambales, BC turned over its operating rights to DIZ by virtue of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) dated November 25, 1997 following the closure of mining operations.
Mining operations were forced to stop after a landslide caused by heavy rains destroyed mine infrastructures, accompanied by a sudden fall of metal prices in the world market.
According to Lopez, Dizon, as the new owner of the MPSA, should be held responsible for polluted creek and other surface waters in the area.
During a mine visit on Friday, Lopez showed to reporters and other guests one surface water that was allegedly destroyed because of the mining operations in the area. She also showed a drainage within the mine site, which could be acidic, that leads to the lake of San Marcelino community.
“There’s a problem in (mining) policies. You can’t leave it (a creek) like that. What I want to do is put out policy that tells miners that they can’t leave water like that,” Lopez said.
“This pit is here forever. No amount of taxes can cover this. You have to detox this everyday. And who is going to pay for it? the government? No way,” she added.
Dizon, according to sources, is currently looking for potential partners to resume the exploration in the area. Investments for the said activity could go as high as $100 million.
To recall, a total of 75 mining companies are now at risk of losing their MPSAs. Based on Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), there are currently 339 existing MPSAs right now, of which only 96 are operational.
Leo Jasareno, DENR consultant and former MGB director, said all the remaining MPSAs are not totally spared and will still be “subject to regular review.”
Jasareno also said that all these companies have already responded and Lopez is due to make a decision on their cancellation this month.
“The Secretary is forming a committee to evaluate their response. Within the month, she’s planning to decide on it,” he said.
Lopez is currently up against at least 20 oppositors at the Commission on Appointments, while there are at least 10 groups that have expressed their support for her.
To recall, the CA bypassed her appointment twice before closing its last session in March. The Congress will convene again on May 2.
Lopez said she wants to finish all her policy recommendations for mining and environment sector before May 2. One of them is the policy on the rehabilitation of water bodies within mine sites.