By Jonathan L. Mayuga - July 26, 2017
Apparently taking the cue from President Duterte, Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu on Tuesday vowed to prioritize environmental protection over mining interest.
In a news statement released on Wednesday, Cimatu said Duterte made a very strong point in his second State of the Nation Address (Sona) with his pronouncement that the protection of the environment must be made a priority over benefits derived from mining.
“I know for a fact that, in a number of cases, weak and irresponsible mining practices result to environmental destruction, contaminating farmlands and poisoning our rivers and seas. Miners better refrain from despoiling our watersheds, forests and aquatic resources,” Cimatu said.
To ensure responsible mining, he said the DENR will strictly enforce mining and environmental laws.
Mining operations found violating laws, rules and regulations, Cimatu added, would have to pay the price for damages caused, through payment of fines, suspensions or outright closure.
Moreover, he said, listed officials will also be held responsible for inimical acts committed by an association, corporation or partnership, ranging from penalty or imprisonment, at the discretion of the courts.
According to Cimatu, mining in the Philippines can only be responsible if the development of the country’s mineral resources will be on the basis of technical feasibility, environmental sustainability, cultural and social acceptability, and financial viability. The absence of one will not render a mining project as responsible.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), which represents the local mining industry’s big players, earlier welcomed Duterte’s Sona pronouncement against “irresponsible” mining.
Through its vice president for policy and legal, the mining chamber, however, said the current mining law is enough to promote responsible mining although it respects Duterte’s pronouncement supporting the enactment of a new mining law.
“We share the President’s frustration against illegal-mining practices and support his desire for mining companies to be responsible in paying taxes as stewards of the environment,” Recidoro said.
COMP has consistently vowed to support the Duterte administration and its policy to promote responsible mining, even as the chamber was at loggerheads with environmental advocate and former Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez. The chamber strongly opposed Lopez’s appointment before the bicameral Commission on Appointments leading to her rejection in May.
COMP is now hoping for Cimatu to reverse Lopez’s controversial policy declaration and orders, including the closure and suspension orders of 28 large-scale mines, 75 minerals production sharing agreement, and ban on open-pit mining method.