The country’s big mining lobby on Tuesday said the moratorium on new mining permits jeopardizes investment in the sector.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) noted the recent move by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) impedes the otherwise positive investment environment created during the business forum in Davao City last month.
Environment Secretary Regina Paz Lopez issued DENR Memorandum Order (MO) 1-16, imposing a moratorium on the approval of new mining projects and will disallows new mining activities under her watch despite paying higher taxes.
The order took effect immediately and “shall remain in force and in effect until formally terminated.”
Lopez’s first memo institutionalizes her policy pronouncement when she took over the helm of the DENR.
“In line with the pronouncement on responsible mining by His Excellency, President Rodrigo Duterte, ‘that there will be a comprehensive review of the mining claims of concessions given,’ and in the interest of the common good and to ensure that the concerns of the helpless and the impoverished are addressed, an audit of all operating mines and a moratorium on the approval of all new projects are hereby ordered for the guidance and compliance of all concerned,” the order stated.
The memo repealed or modified all other existing orders, circulars, and directives that are inconsistent with the provisions of the order, said Nelia Halcon, executive vice president of the Chamber of Mines.
“The Chamber of Mines and its entire membership continues to rely on the President’s pronouncement to the DENR to just implement the Mining Act of 1995 and ensure responsible mining in the country,” Halcon said.
Since 2010, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau has been undertaking an assessment of all mining permits and agreements in its “Use it, Lose it” policy in a bid to purge the system of non-moving mining applications.
Executive Order 79 also called for a review of the performance of existing mining operations and a continuation of the cleansing of non-moving mining rights holders.
“The review shall be based on the guidelines and parameters set forth in the specific mining contract or agreement and on other pertinent laws, rules and regulations such as the Mining Act of 1995 and the Labor Code,” according to the EO.
“After six years of review, it is now incumbent upon the MGB to report the results to the new secretary before another comprehensive review is undertaken,” Halcon said.
“A continuing moratorium on new mining projects only breeds more confusion and uncertainty particularly on capital-intensive and risky mining business,” she added.
Out of the 42 companies listed by the MGB, only half or 21 are members of the Chamber of Mines— and of the 21 members, 17 have fully complied with ISO 14001 with the remaining 4 waiting to be certified.
“We are now calling on MGB to release the list of cancelled mining applications in the spirit of transparency,” Halcon said.
In a related development, newly established Philippine National Coalition for Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining called on the Duterte administration for support.