Environment Secretary Regina Lopez on Tuesday cancelled the mineral production sharing agreements (MPSA) of 75 mining companies operating in watershed areas.
Lopez said that show cause orders, her Valentine’s gift to the Filipino people, were given to 37 mines in Mindanao, 27 in Luzon and 11 in the Visayas.
“Water is life. There should be no mining in watershed areas,” she stressed.
“What happens when you adversely affect a watershed? You dry up the resource,” she added.
Lopez said that many of those served show cause orders were in the exploration stage while the others have yet to start production.
“Mining in watersheds is absolutely non-negotiable,” she said.
Among the key projects facing cancellation were Philex Mining Corp’s Silangan project, Toronto-listed St. Augustine Gold and Copper Ltd.’s King-king copper-gold project in Mindanao, and Intex Resources Inc. in Mindoro Oriental.
Meanwhile, Lopez said that she is also cancelling the Financial Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) for the $5.9 billion Tampakan copper-gold project in South Cotabato province.
“We’re canceling this as a gift of love to the people of Cotabato,” Lopez, who had expressed her opposition to open pit mining, said.
Lopez has admitted that she lacks the technical knowledge of the mining industry and continues to elude questions on the bases of her decisions.
The Environment secretary earlier issued an order shutting down more than half of the country’s operating mines.
In the Philippines, there are two forms of mining contracts entered into with the government – MPSA and FTAA.
The law allows those with MPSA to undertake mineral development activities while those with FTAA do large-scale mineral development projects.
There are about 331 mining companies granted MPSA. Of these, 41 are already operational. Only five miners are operating under FTAA.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines scored Lopez anew for her unilateral decision and disregard of due process in the cancellation of MPSAs.
“The recent announcement of DENR secretary-designate Regina Paz Lopez cancelling the Mineral Production Sharing Agreements of 75 projects, including several that are yet to start, and the Tampakan Environmental Compliance Certificate, is no longer a question of whether you are pro or anti-mining,” COMP said in a statement.
COMP said that upholding the sanctity of contracts is a requisite to the democratic process that must be uphold.
“This act impinges on our right to due process and runs against good governance,” the Chamber said. “The MPSAs were entered into by government and us as mere contractors in the development of these mineral lands.”
COMP maintained that the decision to cancel these agreements does not rest on Lopez alone since it should be decided by the President and the Cabinet.