BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya: Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero has called on local government units to “strictly enforce” the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992 or NIPAS Act to stop destructive mining activities.
“If they [LGU officials] want to protect their areas from what they deem as naturally destructive activities like mining, they must strictly enforce the NIPAS Act,” Escudero said.
The senator aired the call during his visit to Nueva Vizcaya, which is one of the provinces included in the proposed mining-free zone bill of Deputy House Speaker Carlos Padilla, representative of the lone district of Nueva Vizcaya.
The province is host to two mining ventures, the Didipio Gold-Copper Project in the mountain village of Didipio in Kasibu town and the Runruno Gold-Molybdenum Project in Runruno village in Quezon town.
Escudero said the bill is a subject of discussion in the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, which he chairs.
He said similar bills declaring Catanduanes, Cagayan De Oro, Eastern Samar, Nueva Ecija, Biliran, Davao City and the second district of Sorsogon as mining-free zones are also scheduled for review.
“The bills claim that mining operations have damaged forest, agricultural lands, river systems and marine resources,” Escudero said,
“I am waiting for a clear and comprehensive national policy before the Senate can discuss the bills declaring mining-free zones,” Escudero said, adding that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has yet to give its recommendations.
He also expressed apprehensions that there might come a time when every municipality, district and province would want to be declared as mining-free zone.
“If this will be the case, then we might as well need to pass a law – like the total log ban—no mining in the Philippines,” Escudero said.
However, the senator said the NIPAS Act can be used as ground to disallow mining in protected areas.
Escudero said there are mining companies which are strictly complying with the law.
“But it is very sad to say that most of the violators in the industry are those involved in small-scale mining,” Escudero said.
He said there is no need to have many mining activities but if it would be on a large scale, it would mean they have the capital, properly done and will comply with the law.
Meanwhile, the Gross Value Added contribution of the mining sector to the Philippine economy in 2014 was pegged at P84.2 billion. In terms of exports, mining has contributed a total of P21 billion due to national and local taxes, fees and royalties from the mineral industry last year.