BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya: A House Bill (HB) has been approved declaring the province of Nueva Vizcaya a mining free zone but subjecting those already existing mining operations for “review.”
Approved on February 10 on third and final reading, HB 3667 was authored by Rep. Carlos Padilla of the lone district of Nueva Vizcaya. The bill he said, “will soon be transmitted to the Senate.”
If the bill is approved, Padilla said however that for those already existing mining operations, the provincial government with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in partnership with various stakeholders “shall review their contracts and agreement.”
At least three large-scale foreign mining firms are located in the mineral-rich towns of Kasibu and Quezon in the province; the Asia-Pacific mining firm OceanaGold Philippines Inc. is in its full commercial operations since May last year while the British-owned FCF Minerals Corp. is now in its construction phase and about to start production.
Another Australian firm, Royalco Philippines Inc., is in its exploration stage but reportedly has announced its temporary withdrawal due to strong resistance from villagers and Church-based anti-mining groups.
The bill was originally filed in the 15th Congress as House Bill 5800, which was approved by the House on November 28, 2012. This was transmitted and received by the Senate on November 29, 2012. However, the Senate failed to act on this measure.
The bill which was refiled on July 10, 2013 is “aimed at preventing environmental destruction due to the harsh effects of mining” which is now has become HB 3667 ready for transmittal to the Senate.
Padilla has explained that it is his “desire . . . to prohi- bit all mining operations in Nueva Vizcaya.”
The bill has defined mining as the extraction of valuable minerals, including gra- vel and sand as well as large- scale and small-scale mining activities involved in explo- ration, feasibility, development, utilization and processing operations.
According to Padilla, the bill will also penalize violators with imprisonment of at least six years but not more than 12 years and a fine of at least P100,000 but not more then P500,000.
Padilla said violators shall include corporations, firms, partnerships or associations whether Filipino or alien whose officers shall also be held liable.
In cases where aliens are involved, Padilla said the bill provides that they shall be summarily deported after service of sentence.
“The bill is so important to my province and to my constituents because it affects not only the present but even the future generation of our people. Hence, it was refiled in the 16th Congress,” Padilla said.
Upland communities which are engaged in small-scale mining and agriculture constitute almost seventy percent of Nueva Vizcaya’s land area which is also inhabited by tribal communities of Ibaloi, Kalanguya, Kankanai, Bugka–lot, Dadiangan, Isinai, Gad–dang, Iwak, Tuale, Dumagat and the like.