THE Supreme Court slapped a dead halt to mining activities in Masinloc, Zambales.
This after the Court en banc issued a Writ of Kalikasan to protect and preserve the environment on the basis of a petition filed by the residents of the town.
The Court also issued a Temporary Environmental Protection Order, which arrested the large-scale mining permits issued by Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane of Zambales.
The 15-man tribunal also remanded the case with the Court of Appeals for reception of evidence and to hear the case on its merits.
Petitioner-residents questioned the large-scale mining operations in their province that operate under illegally issued small-scale mining permits.
The petitioners hail from Masinloc, Zambales represented by Atty. Joel Butuyan while named respondents are Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje and Ebdane.
With this, the Court has mandated the respondents to file comment within a period of 10 days from notice.
In particular, they questioned the 94 small-scale mining permits issued by Ebdane using as basis a long-repealed Marcos-era law, Presidential Decree 1899. The petitioners allege that under Republic Act 7076, small-scale mining operations can only be made in areas declared as “Minahang Bayan.”
The petitioners cited that after small-scale mining permits (SSMPs) are issued, actual mining operations conducted are large-scale mining with the use of heavy equipment like backhoe and dump trucks.
The petitioners argued that the small-scale mining grantees are merely using the more relaxed requirements for SSMPs to circumvent stricter requirements under the law.
The government has suspended the issuance of large-scale mining permits pending review of government mining policy.