Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu wants miners to integrate biodiversity conservation into mining operations as part of their adherence to the principle of responsible mining as espoused by the Duterte administration.
“Responsible mining companies should seek not merely to minimize and mitigate but, where possible, to enhance the biodiversity in areas where they operate,” Cimatu said in a statement.
The DENR chief reiterated his unwavering support for President Rodrigo Duterte’s resolve to prioritize environmental protection and his non-negotiable policy against irresponsible mining, as the President announced during his second State of the Nation Address on July 24.
Cimatu made the statement in the wake of an international study which led to the discovery of new mammal species in Luzon.
The study by the Field Museum of Chicago (FMC), entitled “Doubling diversity: A cautionary tale of previously unsuspected mammalian diversity on a tropical oceanic island,” involves 56 newly discovered mammal species, which 93 percent or 52 of the species are found nowhere else in the world.
It was conducted by a team of Filipino and American researchers led by Dr. Lawrence Heany, and published in the scientific journal Frontier of Biogeography. Heany is an ecologist, evolutionary biologist, and curator of mammals at the FMC.
“The study has arguably amplified the President’s call to mining companies to strictly comply with existing rules and regulations,” Cimatu pointed out.
He added that taking a proactive stance on biodiversity conservation efforts being implemented by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources would “serve well the mining sector in showing its sincerity in its response to the President’s call and goodwill beyond the immediate host communities where they operate.”
The discovery of additional mammal species in Luzon was a big boost to the new mining policy direction of the Duterte administration, which puts premium on the protection and preservation of the nation’s flora and fauna species and their habitats, Cimatu noted.
“Integrating biodiversity conservation into their mining project cycle would surely help mining companies restore, possibly to near-original condition, mining-affected forests in the country,” Cimatu said.
He said the mining sector will benefit immensely in giving a positive image to the general public as such move would “amplify their efforts” to reduce biodiversity loss and provides significant contributions to national and global conservation initiatives.
For her part, Director Mundita Lim of the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) said the FMC findings support the President’s directive to mining companies to adopt more responsible measures in their operations.
“We welcome the President’s call for a responsible mining industry, thus we suggest that the mining sector take into account results of scientific studies that reveal the significance of wildlife species in maintaining healthy ecosystems,” Lim said.
“We urge the mining industry to take this opportunity to take the center stage with us in striking a balance vis-à-vis mining. Our potentials are limitless if we can continue to conserve and sustainably manage our biodiversity, and at the same time, we are still able to pursue development of our extractive industries,” she added.
Mainstreaming biodiversity into the sectors of energy and mining is a major agenda for discussion in the upcoming Meeting of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Body of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UN-CBD).
Lim was elected by the Conference of the Parties of the UN-CBD in December 2016 to chair the meeting set for December 2017 in Montreal, Canada.
The Philippines has 228 key biodiversity areas (KBA) in various regions. The KBAs are home to 855 globally important species, including those newly discovered.