MALACAÑANG on Wednesday backed the decision of Environment Secretary Regina Paz “Gina” Lopez to cancel 75 mining contracts involving watersheds, saying the move was based on law.
“The cancellation of 75 mineral production sharing agreements (MPSAs) by Secretary Regina Lopez is consistent with Republic Act (RA) 7942 that mining applications are closed to proclaimed watershed forest reserves,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
RA 7942, or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 established a new system of mineral resources exploration, development, utilization and conservation, and opened the sector to foreign investors.
Continuing her crackdown on illegal mining activities in the country, Lopez on Tuesday ordered 75 mining agreements cancelled because the projects are near watersheds.
The former environmental activist earlier ordered the closure of 23 erring mining companies and the suspension of five others for damaging watersheds and for “indiscriminate” mining.
The Palace official however said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) should establish that due process was followed.
“[A]s agreed upon in the last Cabinet meeting, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is to establish that it has gone through due process before enforcing the applicable laws, rules or regulation,” Abella said.
“The DENR is to issue a show-cause order for concerned mining companies and they will be given seven days to reply,” he added.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvado Panelo said mining firms have legal remedies under the law, and can file motions for reconsideration.
“Under the law, there are grounds for cancellation. If there is a violation, what is the violation that is good ground for cancellation, suspension or closure? One is non-payment of taxes. Number two, non-deposit of rehabilitation funds required on the mining company. So if they did not comply with this, they will be closed outright,” Panelo told reporters by phone.
“The mining companies will be given due process by the DENR, otherwise, I don’t think it will arbitrarily close any mining companies… Of course, they have remedies under the law. They can file a motion for reconsideration,” he added.