BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya: At least two existing government-sanctioned large-scale mining firms here are exempted from the recently approved House Bill (HB) declaring this mineral-rich province as a mining-free zone.
Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) explained that the two mining projects in the mountain village of Didipio, which lies along the border of Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino, and in Runruno in Quezon town would only be subject to “review.”
“The ongoing multibillion-peso mining ventures which is the Didipio Gold-Copper Project and the Runruno Gold-Molybdenum Project . . . would not necessarily be affected once the bill becomes a law,” said Engr. Mario Ancheta, MGB director for Cagayan Valley.
Earlier, Deputy House Speaker Carlos Padilla, representative of the lone district of Nueva Vizcaya sponsored HB 3667, entitled: An Act Declaring the Province of Nueva Vizcaya a Mining-Free Zone.
The cited measure has been referred to the Senate for review.
“The bill is [meant]to prevent environmental destruction from the harsh effects of mining especially so that the province is considered as watershed area,” Padilla said.
The lawmaker said the bill would prohibit all mining activities in the province, including exploration and development as well as extraction, utilization and processing of minerals.
However, since the large-scale mining projects in Didipio and Runruno are covered by Financial and Technical Assistance Agreements (FTAA) entered into between the national government and their foreign contractors, “it cannot therefore be revoked,” according to MGB officials.
“The contracts entered into by the national government and these foreign mining contractors are protected under the non-impairment clause which is contained in the Philippine Constitution,” Ancheta said.
He cited Section 10, Article III of the 1987 Constitution, which provides: “No law impairing the obligation of contracts shall be passed, thus the approved House bill may be declared unconstitutional if it revokes the contracts.”
Ancheta said that the government is obligated to respect contracts that it entered into with entities or organizations such as the Didipio and Runruno projects “unless there are valid and legal grounds that warrants the revocation of such contracts or agreements.”
OceanaGold Philippines Inc. (OGPI), a subsidiary of the Australia-based OceanaGold Corporation (OGC), is currently undertaking the Didipio-Gold Project. It commenced commercial operation in April 2013 after nearly two decades of exploration and construction activities.
Ancheta said OGPI is one of the first mining projects approved under the Mining Act of 1995, which was passed during the administration of former President Fidel Ramos.
The Runruno Gold-Molybdenum Project in Quezon town, meanwhile, is run by British-owned FCF Minerals, Inc. The project is in its construction phase and commercial operations are set to commence in less than two years.
Meanwhile, anti-mining groups will be conducting a Cagayan Valley-wide action at the OGPI office in front of the Provincial Capitol of Nueva Vizcaya today at 10 a.m.
Organizers said the action would be conducted to synchronize with a nationwide “Green Flag Day,” a coordinated action against large-scale mining in time with the anniversary of the Mining Act of 1995.
They said that caravans by anti-mining groups from Quirino and Isabela would converge at the Provincial Capitol grounds to register their opposition against the continued operations of OGPI and FCF Minerals.
Other groups protesting black sand mining operations in the coastal areas of Cagayan province will also converge at the Rizal Park in Tugegarao City for an ecumenical prayer followed by a march-parade.