Guimaras execs say mining ban will stayBy Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
JORDAN, Guimaras—The provincial government of Guimaras is standing by an ordinance banning mining in the island province and is seeking ways to continue enforcing this at the risk of clashing with a new national policy on mining outlined by President Aquino’s Executive Order No. 79.
EO 79 ordered local governments to heed national over local laws on mining. It also declared tourism sites off limits to mining, however.
Felipe Nava, Guimaras governor, said while the provincial ordinance could be on a collision course with EO 79, the province falls under the category of tourism sites and should be closed to mining.
Nava, in a press conference on Tuesday, said Guimaras is on the list of areas to be developed as key tourism spots under the National Tourism Development Plan.
Aside from being a tourism site, Nava said Guimaras should also be declared a protected area where mining is banned because it has a marine reserve.
“We will exert efforts to be exempted (from mining) and the EO can still work in our favor,” the governor said.
EO 79, issued on July 6, declared several areas closed to mining. These include protected areas and prime agricultural lands that are already off limits to mining as provided by the Mining Act of 1995.
Environmental groups and antimining advocates have, however, questioned the provision requiring local governments to heed national over local laws on mining.
The provision, found in Section 12 of EO 79, could render useless local laws that ban mining, according to mining critics.
Guimaras, Capiz, Negros Occidental, Samar, Eastern Samar and Northern Samar are among the 11 provinces that have passed ordinances against mining.
Nava said provincial ordinances against mining could not technically block approval of large-scale mining applications by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, but unbending opposition by local officials and residents was key to keeping their communities closed to mining.
Pending and approved mining applications in Guimaras cover more than 34,000 hectares, or more than half, of the province’s 60,000-ha land area.
Guimaras officials have been consistent in rejecting large-scale mining in the island province that is known for its mangoes, rich marine life and pristine beaches and islets.
Guimaras has recovered from a massive oil spill six years ago that sent thousands of liters of bunker fuel blanketing the province’s shores and mangroves in thick, black sludge.
Tourist arrivals have significantly increased as the province recovered from the disaster. The number of visitors to the province increased from 60,784 in 2000 to 297,375 last year, according to the provincial tourism office.