Aquino’s new mining EO draws more flak from green groups
MANILA, Philippines—Environmentalists on Wednesday slammed President Aquino’s new mining order, saying it is virtually a caveat to local officials and communities not to pass ordinances banning mining.
Executive Order No. 79’s provision declaring that local government units conform to the national government’s policy on mining drew more flak from the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan/Friends of the Earth Philippines (LRC-KsK/FoE Phils).
“What the provision intends to do is to prevent other LGUs from following the footsteps of numerous other LGUs that have issued local legislation and already stood up against minerals extraction in their respective territories, and protected the welfare of their people,’’ Gerry Arrances, the group’s program officer, said in a statement.
In effect, the administration was sending a strong message that it would pursue “its promotion of mineral extraction and its business-as-usual framework, thus continuing wanton destruction of our communities and the environment,” Arrances said.
By issuing EO 79, Aquino sought to institutionalize reforms in the mining sector and provide guidelines to ensure environmental protection and responsible mining in the use of mineral resources.
Its section 12, which provides that local ordinances should be consistent with the Constitution and national laws, has stirred some controversy, among other provisions.
It says that LGUs should confine themselves to the imposition of “reasonable limitations” on mining activities within their jurisdiction, and these should be consistent with national laws and regulations.
Arrances said the national government didn’t need to spell this out in EO 79 because LGUs were aware of this when they enacted ordinances banning mining.
After all, by passing such ordinances, the LGUs were only exercising police power and upholding general welfare and their constituents’ right to a “balanced and healthful ecology’’ and the well-being of its local territories and ecosystems, he said.
Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of the Alyansa Tigil Mina, conceded that the mining order introduced reforms, such as the identification of mining-free zones, increased transparency and a system for review and monitoring of mining contracts.
These reforms, however, were overshadowed by the provision that all contracts, agreements and concessions approved prior to the order were considered valid and binding, he said.
“We sincerely believe that DENR does not have the people, the expertise, the resources and the equipment to effectively enforce this EO, and so the policy is misleading as it gives a false sense of comfort that from now on, ‘all will be well,” he added.
ATM also said any increase in the revenue share of the government from the mining industry would be irrelevant given the industry’s negative impacts on the communities and environment.
“These are the reasons why we need a new mining law, and not only rely on this EO,’’ Garganera said.
Anabelle Plantilla, chief operating officer of Haribon Foundation, said the EO was proof that the government recognized the flawed policy in the mining industry.
“The proof of the pie is in the eating. We have documented on how the Mining Act created a big rift in the protection of the environment and then we have another policy that yet again has weak provisions on the conservation of our forest and ecosystem. Do we need to eat this pie again?” she said.
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