DAVAO CITY—One of the most well known allies of President Aquino among local officials yesterday declared he would not toe Malacañang line on mining and keep supporting efforts to ban mining in this city, the biggest in the world in terms of land size.
Rodrigo Duterte, city vice mayor, said while he could agree with Mr. Aquino on the primacy of national over local laws, he would not heed policy that would allow mining in the city.
Mr. Aquino on Monday made public the contents of his Executive Order No. 79 outlining his administration’s mining policy that included a reminder for local governments that national laws must prevail over local laws if these run counter to each other on mining.
The executive order, said Duterte, “will not work here.” “You can’t force me to legislate something in accordance with what you like in Manila,” said Duterte in one episode of his TV program here.
Duterte said Davao City will remain off-limits to mining and that there was no more need to pass an ordinance to support that policy.
He said he and city officials will translate words into action by rejecting every mining application in any part of the city.
Two districts in the city—Paquibato and Marilog—are believed mineral rich.
In Tagum City, Compostela Valley Gov. Arturo Uy said the local government’s problem is how to deal with small-scale miners who are operating in areas that have been declared no-mining zones, particularly in Nabunturan town.
Uy said mining in Nabunturan has been going on since the 1980s and local officials are unable to stop the influx of people in search of quick riches there.
“This is really a big problem,” said the governor. He said the provincial government wants to discuss possible solutions with the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.
Mr. Aquino’s EO No. 79 identified gold-rich Compostela Valley as a no-mining zone, which Uy questioned.
“I don’t think the entire province should be under that mining ban because, if that would be the case, what would happen now to the thousands of people making a living in our mining areas,” said the governor.
A promining official, Mayor Marivic Diamante of Kiblawan, Davao del Sur, said Mr. Aquino’s mining policy could usher in a better future for her people.
Diamante said while the President’s EO banned mining in Davao del Sur, it exempted existing mining operations like the one by Xstrata’s Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI).
The mayor said she believed the EO prevails over an ordinance banning open pit mining in South Cotabato, one of the biggest stumbling blocks to SMI’s full operation.
A leader of the international human rights group Amnesty International (AI) urged government to side with local communities in regulating mining.
Ritz Lee Santos III, chair of AI Philippines, said the extent of large-scale mining in the Philippines has reached alarming levels.
Santos cited a government report saying the amount of land that mining permits and claims all over the country cover has risen to 1.4 million hectares or 3.8 percent of the country’s total land area. Germelina Lacorte, Frinston Lim, Orlando Dinoy and Judy Quiros, Inquirer Mindanao