BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya: Governor Carlos Padilla said the province can survive even without mining as he expressed deep concern over mining issues dividing the people during a briefing by an Audit Mining Team sent by Environment Secretary Regina Lopez.
“Between mining and agriculture, we chose thousands of years of agriculture than years of mining. Nueva Vizcaya will definitely survive without mining,” Padilla pointed out.
The Mining Audit Team met with Padilla and local officials and representatives from anti-mining groups for a scheduled operations audit of OceanaGold Corporation for its Didipio Copper-Gold Project in Kasibu town
Forester Nemesio Beronilia from the Forest Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) central office, led the audit team with DENR Region Director Wilfredo Malvar, representatives from Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) from the Bicol Region.
During the briefing, Padilla cited former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban saying he believes in responsible mining but unfortunately the apparatus and the infrastructure to ensure responsible mining are not yet in place.
”Therefore if the apparatus is not yet in place, then I am in the belief that at this stage we cannot say that there is responsible mining in the country,” the governor said.
What the province wants, according to Padilla, is an assurance that “the environment is not affected and that our people are not disturbed.”
He said from the time mining activities started in the province, bickering among Novo Vizcayanos also started, with fighting ensuing over confusing mining issues, thus, dividing the people.
Nueva Vizcaya, Padilla added, is progressing not because of mining but because the province is one of the major suppliers of rice and vegetables to the entire country.
”Our per capita income has increased not because of mining but because of our robust agriculture. The province has not gained anything from mining as of this stage, therefore, it is better not to have any mines here,” he said.
The governor cited a Department of Agriculture report citing Nueva Vizcaya as one of the top five outstanding rice-producing provinces along with Ilocos Norte, Occidental Mindoro, Davao del Norte and Davao Oriental.
The province is also a major watershed for major dams in Luzon, including Magat dam and Pantabangan dam 40 percent of whose water come from the province.
Aside from OceanaGold, the province is host to the British FCF Mining Corporations with its Runruno Gold-Mlybdenum Project in the town of Quezon. Both mines are operating under their respective FTAAs, OceanaGold being the first FTAA holder in the country.
Earlier this week, former MGB chief Leo Jasareno, now DENR undersecretary, also sent a team to investigate ongoing expansion of OceanaGold under its five-year extension of its FTAA, opposed by residents and the anti-mining advocates.
Padilla has requested cancellation or suspension of the newly issued OceanaGold exploration permit granted by MGB valid from March 2016 to 2021 and that an exploration moratorium be declared pending amendments to mining policies.
Meanwhile, Mick Wilkes, managing director and chief executive officer of OceanaGold, said they will continue to support the government’s advocacy of responsible mining.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday called mining a “sunset industry” that “will destroy the country” during the State of Mindanao Environmental Summit in Ateneo de Davao University.
He reiterated his administration will go after mining companies that will not follow the strictest international standards.
Duterte said that even compliant mining companies are ultimately bad for the country.