MINING lobby Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) on Thursday reiterated its call for a full disclosure of an industry-wide audit by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
“We are not just requesting for the mere summation of the audit results. We need the actual test results which were used as bases for determining whether or not these mining firms have violated environmental regulations,” said COMP chairman Artemio Disini.
COMP issued the statement after Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Paz Lopez announced that the suspension and cancellation orders covering 28 mining companies will be signed and released today.
She will release to the mining industry the recommendations submitted to her by the technical committee, saying that “due process was meticulously observed” in the audit of all existing metallic mines in the country.
Because the team she formed took longer than expected in going through the mining operations, the DENR chief said she personally visited mine sites by helicopter to come up with a decision.
Lopez said there were disagreements between the audit team’s recommendations and her desire to promote common good and social justice.
In a press conference in Malacañang on Thursday, Lopez said her order to close down mines operating in watersheds is non-negotiable that “it would take a miracle to convince me to allow mining in watersheds.”
Fifteen of the 23 mining operations that were given the order to close shop were operating in functional watersheds.
“As far as I know it’s against the law. It’s against social justice, it’s against the constitution. He (Duterte) said ‘I agree there should be no mining in watersheds,’” Lopez said.
COMP, however, said mining companies will want to see that standardized tests as prescribed by law were done covering air and water quality, siltation and solid waste management.
“The DENR needs to show us that these tests were conducted in each mining company and the specific findings that merited their suspension or closure,” Disini said. The chamber is asking for these in the spirit of fairness and transparency.
“We continue to subscribe by President Rodrigo Duterte’s marching orders that we could mine for as long as we follow the law and uphold to the highest regard the tenets of responsible mining,” Disini said.
Earlier, Lopez said the mining audit was fair and within the law and that she did it to protect the present and future generations as enshrined in the Mining Law and the Philippine Constitution.
The audit results were criticized by the mining sector, claiming the audit lacked due process and would lead to loss of employment and livelihood in affected communities. The closures would result in loss of tax revenues against local governments and the national coffers.
Lopez vowed that within two years she will prove that a green economy can create more jobs than mining could ever create.
While mining has indeed created jobs, she stands firm that sustainable economic development could be achieved without destroying the environment and causing the people to suffer, and that an inclusive green economy is way better an alternative to mining.
The issue is social justice and not mining, she said. At the end of the day, Lopez said she had “to make the decisions based on truth, service and the common good.”
Lopez earlier said she lacked technical knowledge of the mining industry, but the closure and suspension orders were done “to protect the present and future generations.”
In an interview with ANC’s Headstart, Lopez said she did not know about the technicalities of mining and relied on “someone who has the common good in his heart,” which happened to be former Mines and Geosciences Bureau Director Leo Jasareno.