Cimatu hopes to finish mining review by end-July

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ENVIRONMENT Secretary Roy Cimatu is hoping to complete the review of the controversial decisions of his predecessor, including the closing down of several mining operations and cancellation of government contracts with miners, by the end of next month.

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“We are actually doing everything to fast track all these things,” Cimatu said during the opening of the R&D Congress on Sustainable Urbanization in the Course of ASEAN Economic Integration held at Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila in Pasay City.

Cimatu’s predecessor, former DENR Secretary Regina Paz Lopez, earlier this year ordered the suspension and closure of some 26 mining operations in the country for alleged environmental violations.

Of the total number of mining companies facing suspension or closure, 13 have appealed to the Office of the President, while the remaining filed their appeal to the Office of the DENR Secretary.

Lopez also cancelled some 75 mineral production-sharing agreements (MPSA), which are contracts between the government and mining contractors, on the grounds that these mining companies were operating in “functional watersheds.”

Because of her hard stance against mining operations, Lopez faced strong opposition during her confirmation hearings with the Commission on Appointments, with several lawmakers openly criticizing her “very bad decision” in suspending and cancelling mining contracts. The panel voted not to confirm her appointment.

Meanwhile, Cimatu said they will do everything to fast-track the review.

Cimatu, a retired general who was appointed to head the DENR in May, said that he will go around the country to visit “responsible” mining companies, particularly in Benguet, Palawan and Surigao.

Environment Undersecretary for Administration, Finance and Management Demetrio Ignacio said that once the review of the mining operations has been completed by next month, the minerals development sector could finally move forward.

“After the completion of the review (including those that appealed to the Office of the President), it will go back to the DENR for the implementation,” Ignacio told reporters.

“If Malacañang says that they should be suspended, then we will be the one implementing the order; but if Malacañang says that they should be open, then we should create safeguards before they can start operations again,” he added.

Ignacio said they would compel mining companies to pay the corresponding penalties over environmental violations allegedly committed regardless of the outcome of the review.

“Their violations, they should be accountable for that irrespective of whether there is an appeal or not. Secretary Cimatu is very particular that the law should be followed,” he said.

He said that they are now preparing the administrative proceedings to compute the amount to be paid by respective miners, depending on the number of days that the violation has been committed.

“Right now, the adjudication process is ongoing. We hope to come up with the final figures immediately after the review of the mining operations in July,” he added.

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