The fate of 20 mining operations hangs in the balance after President Rodrigo Duterte sacked the head of the audit committee tasked to review all large-scale mining operations in the country.
Environment Undersecretary Mario Luis Jacinto on Monday announced that President Duterte has already
appointed Lawyer Wifredo Moncano as the new director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, replacing Environment Undersecretary Leo Jasareno’s item as a Director IV.
“Leo [Jasareno] has been replaced by the President. Officially, he does not have a position anymore so he cannot function for government,” Jacinto told MGB employees during Monday’s flag raising ceremony.
Jasareno could no longer continue his function as Environment undersecretary as his appointment letter remained pending at the Office of the President, Jacinto noted.
Jasareno and other department officials filed their resignation letters on the heels of an order by President Rodrigo Duterte for appointees of former President Benigno Aquino 3rd to vacate their positions.
“Malacañang found out he’s acting Director IV,” Jacinto said. “In government, you need an item so that you can function. I have to announce it to end speculations regarding the president’s order.”
“With the issuance of the order of the president, then the position of acting director IV of Leo now goes to Attorney Moncano, who has taken his oath of office,” he added.
Jasareno, who headed the MGB for the past five years before he was appointed by Environment Secretary Gina Lopez as officer-in-charge and senior undersecretary for Environment in a special order on August 3, 2016.
The former MGB chief was tasked to supervise the operations of the Environmental Management Bureau, as well as other functions assigned or delegated by the DENR secretary—including the mining audit.
In a separate telephone interview, Moncano said that they have yet to receive an official order from the Environment secretary about his function, but that there are no major changes in the audit timetable. “The audit will push through.”
Lopez, who has a positive perception of Jasareno, said she will meet with President Duterte to discuss the matter.
“I cannot let that happen. I like Leo. I love Leo,” she said, adding that she needs somebody “technical and honest” like Jasareno in her office.
“The good has to be done. If someone did good, you don’t let him go. What he did in the audit, it takes a lot of courage,” she added.
So far, 10 mines that included eight nickel producers have been suspended for environmental lapses since the audit started on July 8.
The audit teams also recommended the suspension of 20 other miners for environmental violations, unsystematic mining methods and outstanding social issues. The companies, mostly nickel operations, would be suspended unless they are able to address the shortcomings.
Among those recommended for suspension were Libjo Mining Corp., AAM-Phil Natural Resources Exploration and Development Corp.-Parcel 1 and Parcel 2B, Krominco Inc., Carrascal Nickel Corp., Marcventures Mining and Development Corp., Filminera Resources Corp., Strongbuilt Mining Development Corp., Sinosteel Philippines HY Mining Corp., Oriental Synergy Mining Corp., and Wellex Mining Corp.
Also recommend for suspension were Century Peak Corp.-Rapid City Nickel Project and Casiguran Nickel Project, Oriental Vision Mining Philippines Corp., and CTP Construction and Mining Corp., Agata Mining Ventures Inc., Hinatuan Mining Corp., Benguet Corp., Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co., OceanaGold Phils Inc., Adnama Mining Resources Inc., and SR Metals Inc.
The suspended miners and those recommendation for suspension represent three- quarters of the operating mines in the country, including 18 nickel producers that account for 55.5 percent of the total nickel ore output.
Jacinto refused to comment on how Jasareno’s case would affect the timetable for the results of the mining audit. “We don’t have a direct hand on its deliberation.”
Jasareno earlier said a final decision on the mining operations to be suspended was scheduled for late October, noting that the government was still in the process of sending letters to companies.
“The mining companies will be given seven days, and we have another seven days to review,” Jasareno said in a separate phone interview. “By the third week of this month, we hope to come up with a decision.”