SC halts Zamboanga mining
The Supreme Court has banned mining in the mineral-rich Zamboanga peninsula, favoring a petition of religious and nongovernment organizations which asked that mining be stopped due to its dangerous effects to the environment and indigenous communities.
In an en banc decision on August 16, the high tribunal issued a writ of “kalikasan,” directing the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and its attached agencies, particularly the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), to stop issuing mining permits and applications.
MGB Director Leo Jasareno lamented the court’s issuance of the writ, saying this was a blow to the country’s mining industry.
“The writ would stop all mining applications and operations in the entire Zamboanga Peninsula. If the allegations would prove to be baseless, this would be disastrous to business and place in doubt the ability of the government to protect legitimate investments,” Jasareno said.
Covering 1.4 million hectares of land, or 54 percent of the total peninsula area is forest land. The place has proven reserves of gold, chromite, silver, manganese and lead.
The writ of kalikasan was promulgated by then Chief Justice Reynato Puno to give citizens and stakeholders a legal way to challenge parties that they believe are harming the environment.
According to the petitioners, the DENR and its attached agencies virtually committed grave abuse of power when they issued permits and tenements to mining firms in the region, knowing that it would harm the environment.
The petitioners stressed that the mining industry in the Zamboanga peninsula posed threats to the residents and the environment.
They maintained that many of the mining applications cover key biodiversity areas and watershed regions. These areas will be degraded by mineral extraction activities.
The mining firms in the peninsula also encroach on the ancestral lands of the Subanen tribe, they added.
The petitioners include the Philippine Earth Justice Center, Alliance to Save the Integrity of Nature, Kesalubuukan Tupusumi Organization of Subanen People, Bishop Jose R. Manguiran and several private individuals.
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