Ten residents of Masinloc town in Zambales have asked the Supreme Court (SC) to stop its provincial government, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and other agencies from issuing and implementing small-scale mining permits in the country, saying this violated the present law on small-scale mining operations.
In a 35-page petition filed on July 17, they sought for the high court’s issuance of a temporary environmental protection order.
Also named respondents were the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB), the Philippine National Police, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Zambales Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. and Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, and one Camilo Esico.
The petitioners—Robert Escobar, Anthony Fernandez, Geregorio Saga-oc, Noel Tabudlo, Rogelio Castillo Sr., Audy Panganiban, Manuel Mantolino, Melvin Orias, Robert Conejos and Mario Diaz Jr.—said Ebdane granted Esico a small-scale mining permit (SSMP) in 2010, effective for two years, and another SSMP in 2012, which is good until 2014.
The permits are “null and void,” they said, pointing out that these covered an area that was not declared and delineated a people’s small-scale mining area (PSSMA).
Ebdane issued 93 other SSMPs in just one day on July 12, 2011, the residents said.
Ebdane invoked Presidential Decree No. 1899 in issuing the permits, but the petitioners said that the decree had been repealed by Republic Act No. 7076, or the People’s Small-scale Mining Act of 1991.
Under RA 7076, small-scale mining should be undertaken only within the declared PSSMA or “minahang bayan.” The law repealed PD 1899, which was issued in January 1984 and defined and regulated small-scale mining in the country.
“The public respondents—especially Ebdane, the PMRB, the DENR and the DENR secretary—continue to apply PD 1899 by issuing or allowing the issuance of small-scale mining permits pursuant to the provisions of the repealed law,” the petitioners said.
Worse, they said, the DENR issued a memorandum declaring that both PD 1899 and RA 7076 are “valid and subsisting side by side.”
“Without any authority whatsoever, the DENR harmonized both laws by mandating that RA 7076 governs small-scale mining in areas declared as PSSMAs while PD 7076 governs small-scale mining in areas not declared as PSSMAs,” they said.
The petitioners said the DENR allowed mining outside of the PSSMAs when the “clear mandate of Congress when it enacted RA 7076 was to exclusively confine small-scale mining only in PSSMA-declared sites.” By allowing the issuance of SSMPs, the government was not getting a share of mining revenues, they added.
The residents urged the high court to issue a writ of continuing mandamus to direct the respondents to enforce the provisions of RA 7076 by prohibiting small-scale mining outside of the PSSMAs.
With the writ, they said, the DENR, Paje and the MGB would be directed to cancel and revoke all SSMPs issued and to stop the operation of SSMP holders, including Esico.
Citing MGB figures, they said, 291 SSMPs had been issued as of April 12, of which 99 covered areas in Zambales—the highest number in all regions and included the 94 SSMPs issued by Ebdane.
“What this discloses is that Ebdane and the Zambales PMRB are the most blatant violators in the issuance of null and void SSMPs in the entire Philippines,” the petitioners said.
They said Ebdane, the PMRB, the DENR and the PNP were aware of Esico’s use of heavy equipment, claiming that police had “constantly and continuously escorted, guarded and facilitated” their entry to his mine site.