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Philippine mining laws, policies not clear and strong enough, says expert


03:40 PM January 27th, 2012


DAVAO CITY, Philippines—An international environmental expert said mining companies get away with environmentally destructive practices in the Philippines because the country’s laws and policies on mining are not clear or strong enough.

Clive Montgomery Wicks, vice chair of the commission on environmental, economic and social policy of the Switzerland-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), pointed to the conduct of environmental impact statement, or EIS, as one example of how mining companies can go around the law.

IUCN claims to be the world’s oldest and largest global environmental network, with more than 1,000 governmental  and non-governmental member organizations, and almost 11,000 volunteer scientists in more than 160 countries, including the Philippines.

Speaking at a mining forum organized by non-governmental organizations here on Thursday, Wicks said that in the Philippines, an environmental compliance certificate, or ECC,  is issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources on the basis of an EIS prepared by a company.

But studies have shown that mining companies do not identify the possible ill effects or dangers posed by mining operations in their EIS.

“In Philippine mining, most of the mining companies are not identifying the dangers or impact in the required Environmental Impact Statement as well as remedies to cushion the impact of said dangers,” he said.

Wicks said this is not the case with respect to international standards, which require mining companies to identify dangers or impacts on the environment posed by their operations and to identify contingency or remedial measures the are to undertake, in what is called an environmental social impact assessment, or ESIA.

He said to correct the weakness in the law, the government should put in place a structure or one body that would specifically look into mining and strictly enforce responsible mining policies to avoid the bad impact of mining on the environment and people.

Elisea Gozun, presidential assistant for climate change, said at the same forum that the government will be announcing new mining policies in line with its economic development framework for sustainable development.

She said Malacañang has commissioned a study group, which included herself, to work on the new mining policies.

“The study result and the recommendation is not yet in full, and I could not yet divulge our recommendations, but rest assured it is in line with the economic development program of the country,” Gozun said.

She admitted though that it was difficult for the study group to define responsible mining.

“The big challenge is how to translate responsible mining into reality. All mining companies have claims  of being responsible miners, but issues and problems remain prevalent,” Gozun said.

She said the Philippines has better mining laws compared with other countries but the problem is in the implementation and enforcement aspect.

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