The Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) has approved the guidelines on the conduct of an “objective, fact-finding, science-based” review of mining operations nationwide, starting with those the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) ordered closed or suspended last month.
The MICC which is co-chaired by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, 3rd and DENR Secretary Regina Lopez, also decided in its Friday meeting to complete the review that five interdisciplinary technical review teams (TRTs) will be conducting within three months. The TRTs will focus on the technical, legal, social, environmental and economic aspects of the affected mining operations.
“The Council approved the guidelines for the conduct of an objective, fact-finding and science-based review of the operations of the mining companies, in accordance with specific mining contracts concerned and other pertinent laws, rules and regulations,” Dominguez said after the meeting.
Lopez, who was not present, was represented by DENR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Maria Paz Luna.
It was the MICC’s second meeting since Lopez ordered last February 2 the closure of 23 mine sites and the suspension of five others on environmental grounds. On February 14, the DENR secretary cancelled 75 Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs) that are still in the pre-operation stage.
The review, which is mandated under Executive Order No. 79, “will initially cover the 28 mine sites that were recommended for closure and suspension,” according to the MICC guidelines.
In the meeting also attended by representatives of various government agencies, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) expressed concern over the high costs of the emergency employment program that had to be immediately put in place to support workers who might be displaced should the DENR’s closure and suspension orders push through.
Joji Aragon, DOLE Assistant Secretary for Legal, Legislative and International Affairs, said that the DOLE will assess the impact of the mine closures on employment and job displacement.
Aragon said the DOLE is now working on a comprehensive transition plan in case the mines are closed.
Local government executives, represented by the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) pointed out that due process was not observed in the issuance of the DENR orders as the governors and mayors in the host provinces, cities and municipalities of the affected mine sites were never consulted about the closure and suspension orders.
Isabela Vice Governor Antonio Albano, a member of the ULAP national executive board and president of the League of Vice Governors of the Philippines (LGVP) said that in Dinagat Islands, for instance, there were no consultations.
Local government units (LGUs) have to be consulted, said Albano who added that ULAP’s next step is to come up with a resolution and a proposed bill to strengthen the roles of LGUs in the closure of businesses in their localities.
The guidelines approved by the MICC in Friday’s meeting stated that: “The review shall refer/take off from the existing reports (e.g. audit reports and checklists) prepared/developed by the DENR audit team and Technical Review Committee (TRC). The DENR will provide and make available the copies of the documents in the DENR data room for easy reference/access during the conduct of the review. Ocular inspections may also be conducted, if deemed necessary, by the TRT and if funds permit.”
The technical review experts of the TRTS “shall be independent and [have]no known conflict of interest” with the mining sector or any anti-mining nongovernment organization, according to the organizational framework adopted by the MICC’s Technical Working Group (TWG) during an earlier meeting.
Under the organizational framework, the five TRTs will go over the compliance of the 28 mine sites with applicable agreements, submissions, laws and regulations and impact of their operations.
The five TRTs will also tap the academe and engage experts from State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) to help conduct the review, he said.
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the DENR will also provide qualified technical personnel and provide available data and records to each TRT.
The MICC will present the findings and submit its recommendations to the Office of the President, which shall make a final decision on the DENR’s closure and suspension orders, the approved guidelines stated.