Palace chides Lopez
Observe due process on mines, DENR told
MALACAÑANG on Wednesday said that Environment Secretary Regina Lopez needs to prove that due process was observed when she canceled the 75 mining contracts in her campaign against illegal mining.
“As agreed upon in the last Cabinet meeting, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources [DENR] is to establish that it has gone through due process before enforcing the applicable laws, rules, or regulations,” Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
Abella, however, said that the cancellation of the mining contracts was in line with the provisions under RA 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.
The law, he said, prohibits mining applications to proclaimed watershed forest reserves.
On Tuesday, Lopez canceled production sharing agreements or MPSAs of some 75 mining operations, claiming that they were in watersheds in the country and still in the exploration stage.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said that under the law, there are grounds for cancellation of mining contracts—one is “non-payment of taxes,” another is the “non-deposit of a rehabilitation fund required of the mining companies.”
“So if they did not comply with this, they would be closed outright,” he said.
Mining companies who felt that they were arbitrarily closed by Lopez can seek remedies under the law, Panelo said.
They can file a motion for reconsideration with the department and, if they are not satisfied, they can also appeal to the Office of the President, he said.
On Wednesday, the non-government organization Philippine Business for Environmental Stewardship (PBEST) criticized what it described as the “divisive” leadership of Lopez at the DENR.
“The sound management of the environment requires the involvement and cooperation of people and communities, not antagonism and animosity,” said Ysan Castillo, secretary general of PBEST.
“We live in one big ecosystem, where everything and everyone is interconnected. We need a type of governance that is inclusive, not just of the marginalized, but of all, including those perceived to be the ones destroying the environment.”
Lopez announced the suspension of the operations of some large-scale mines and the closure of others early this week, following a series of mine audits that the industry has decried as biased and bereft of legal or factual bases.
“The DENR keeps on challenging just the legitimate large-scale miners, and not the thousands of illegal small-scale operations. This is myopic, considering the host of other pressing environmental concerns that the country is facing,” Castillo said.
“What we see here is a failure to transcend one’s single-cause advocacy, and a regulator who is supposed to look after and unite all the stakeholders for the good of the environment,” said Dindo Manhit, PBEST convenor and president of independent think tank Stratbase-ADRI.
“The DENR leadership should be reminded that it is part of this administration, which promised better lives for the Filipino people,” Manhit said. “In order to fulfill this commitment, the President pushes for the country’s industrialization, and mining cannot be taken away from that equation.”
PBEST is an environmental NGO advocating for sustainable development through sound policies and collaboration among the government, private, academic and civil society sectors.