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Dark clouds hover over mining, says DENR agency

BAGUIO CITY—Lawmakers are considering measures that would further restrict mining as environmentalist sentiment continues to influence how the sector is to be regulated, a top government official warned mining executives at last week’s 60th National Mine Safety and Environment Conference here.

Elmer Billedo, Mines and Geosciences Bureau assistant national director, said up to 15 provinces have enacted ordinances or policies banning mining, while activists file lawsuits aimed at obstructing mining operations in the provinces.

Congress is also studying measures that would declare some provinces, towns and cities as mine-free zones, he said.

The growing antimining sentiment characterizes the hurdles faced by the revenue generating industry, Billedo said.

The government has rationalized these objections by segregating no-mine zones and mineral reservation areas, as stated by Executive Order No. 79, to free up areas that would be devoted to mining.

EO 79 is the mining policy drawn up last year by President Aquino. It automatically excludes critical environmental and tourism areas from mining, but the process of delineating no-mine zones takes time, Billedo said.

A map outlining the potential no-mine zones has been drawn up by the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority, but it has not yet been released, he said.

To date, MGB has issued more than 700 mining permits for exploration and mining operations, covering about 900,000 hectares in the country, according to data supplied by the agency.

On Nov. 15, antimining groups used their annual mine “unsafety” week here to lobby for a measure that gives the national coffers bigger revenues from mining.

Groups from Cagayan Valley, the Ilocos and the Cordillera regions mounted a rally in front of the Cordillera offices of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the MGB to drum up support for the people’s mining bill (House Bill No. 4315 when it was filed in 2011 by then Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño).

The measure seeks to “reorient” the mining industry by making all mineral resources part of national patrimony. If passed, it would replace Republic Act No. 7942 (Philippine Mining Act of 1995).

Santos Mero, deputy secretary-general of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, said the measure grants the state full control of how the country’s mineral resources are used, developed and conserved through a national industrialization program and a mining plan.

The proposed mining plan prioritizes a “domestic needs-based development” which requires the Philippines to develop factories to process industrial metals, so extracted raw minerals need not be exported, according to the bill’s fact sheet. It also mandates the creation and subsidy of downstream metals enterprises to increase employment opportunities. Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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Tags: 60th National Mine Safety and Environment Conference , Mining , News , Regions

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