DENR suspends implementation of new mining policy guidelinesBy Jeannette I. Andrade
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines–The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has suspended the implementation of its guidelines on the government’s new mining policy to give way to amendments on its “ambiguous” provision on the renewal of expiring mining contracts.
In a memorandum issued Friday by DENR undersecretary Demetrio Ignacio Jr. to all concerned offices and the Mining and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), he said that DENR administrative order 2012-07 or the implementing rules and regulations of Executive Order 79 is suspended pending the issuance and effectivity of amendments.
The IRR for EO 79, which embodies President Aquino’s policy on mining, was supposed to take effect Saturday (Sept. 29, 2012), or 15 days after it was published.
Ignacio told the Inquirer that the decision to suspend the implementation of the IRR was reached after a meeting last Monday in Malacañang convened by the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC), headed by Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima.
“It was decided to make the IRR less ambiguous,” the undersecretary said, adding that the meeting had been called over concerns raised by the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) on section 9 of the guidelines which it has described as “patently illegal.”
The COMP claimed that the government review of mining contracts would shorten the maximum 50-year period for projects by imposing a bidding scheme for the renewal after the first 25 years of a tenement.
The group further said that the provision contradicts the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 which provides: “Mineral agreements shall have a term not exceeding 25 years to start from the date of execution thereof, and renewable for another term not exceeding 25 years under the same terms and conditions thereof, without prejudice to charges mutually agreed upon by the parties.”
Section 9 of the IRR states that “in the case of expiring 25-year mining tenements, the qualified mining tenement holder electing to exercise its rights to renew the said mining tenement for another 25-year term shall file the pertinent mining application in the MGB not later than six months prior to the expiration of the same mining tenement.”
It further provides that “the mining contract/agreement that may be renewed shall be subject to new terms and conditions pursuant to the laws, rules and regulations that are existing at the time of the renewal or may be hereafter issued, such as, but not limited to, the establishment of the contract area as a mineral reservation.”
Ignacio told the Inquirer that during the meeting, the members of the MICC agreed to amend the provision to make it clearer and suspend the implementation of the IRR until the amendment is published.
“We are not going to do anything else,” the undersecretary assured, referring to changes in other portions of the IRR.
EO 79 has been touted as the centerpiece of the government’s mining reforms program while the IRR was described to be leaning more toward environmental preservation than earning revenues for the government from mining.