Not a single mining company has been closed even if Environment Secretary Gina Lopez issued a closure order against at least 22 mining companies for various violations of the mining law, an official of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said Tuesday.
MGB Assistant Director Danilo Uykieng said the closure orders were not implemented because these were questioned at the Office of the President.
“The closure orders had been stayed because the companies can still file an MR (Motion for Reconsideration) before the Office of the President, so no mine has been closed,” Uykieng said during the congressional investigation on the mining closure orders.
Rep. Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna who heads the House Committee on Natural Resources called on mining companies to stop giving the impression that they have fallen victims to Lopez’s whims when they have not stopped their operations.
“As we speak now, these mining companies are still in operation. They haven’t lost anything while their violation and destruction of the environment continues,” Zarate said.
“The Secretary may be unorthodox, but for the first time, somebody of her stature called out these mining companies.”
Rep. Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis, shared Zarate’s sentiments.
“A lot has been said about these closures, including that we stand to lose P70 billion. Well, that’s only a calculation. They are still in operation,” Casilao pointed out.
Nickel Asia Vice President for Corporate Communications JB Baylon questioned Lopez’s decision, arguing that a significant number of the large-scale mining companies have secured ISO 140001 certification—the highest environmental management standard.
“That ISO certification means that our mining activities are done without damage to the environment. Our argument here is that this ISO 140001 is already the highest certification so why the need for another audit?” Baylon said in an interview.
One of the mining companies ordered closed by Lopez is the Hinatuan Mining Corporation, a subsidiary of Nickel Asia.
“We have 30 million hectares of mining areas in the country. Of this number, nine million hectares are highly mineralized. Of the nine million, only 270,000 hectares have mining permits. And of the 270,000, only 81,000 hectares are being mined. How can 81,000 hectares destroy the 30 million?” he added.
At the Senate, the Finance department on Tuesday admitted that it would be difficult for the government to immediately recover from the revenue shortfall should mining operations are halted.
Secretary Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez 3rd said Congress will have to come up with more revenue generating measures to recover the expected loss from the closure of mining companies.
According to him, annual taxes collected from mining posted a steady increase from P20.6 billion in 2012 to P29.57 billion in 2015.
“It will be very difficult for us to immediately to cover this shortfall,” Dominguez told the members of the committee on environment and natural resources of the Commission on Appointments (CA).
Dominguez, also a co-chairman of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC), noted that if the government would push through with the closure order against mining companies, congress will have to come up with more revenue measures.
The official said local government units dependent on mining operations will be affected.
“What will happen to the services provided by the LGUs to the senior citizens, health care, infant care?” he asked.
The possible lay off of some 200,000 employees directly working for mining companies should also be taken into consideration, Dominguez said.
President Rodrigo Duterte will have to reappoint Lopez as Environment Secretary because the CA bypassed her appointment.
Sen. Manny Pacquiao however said that even if Lopez is reappointed, her chance of being confirmed by the CA is 50-50.
WITH A REPORT FROM JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA