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Govs embrace DoJ rule on mine permits

/ 10:37 PM October 11, 2011

ZAMBOANGA CITY—Governors of mineral-rich provinces on Tuesday expressed all-out support and thanks for a Department of Justice opinion that stripped the environment secretary of the power to grant special mining permits which, the opinion said, was the sole prerogative of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).

Antonio Cerilles, governor of Zamboanga del Sur, called on Environment Secretary Ramon Paje to heed the DoJ opinion, issued by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

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De Lima had declared as invalid the special mining permit that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) had issued in 2009 to a mining firm in Bayog, Zamboanga del Norte.

De Lima said only the director of the MGB, and not the environment secretary, could issue a special permit to mining firms.

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Rules are clear

“As correctly pointed out by Secretary De Lima, the procedures for the issuance of a mining permit are clear. What the DENR should do is apply the law,” Cerilles said.

The governor added that Paje, who was undersecretary under then environment chief Joselito Atienza, “went out of context.”

“That’s why I questioned his competence,” the governor said.

Paje earlier said he welcomed the DOJ opinion, although admitted he had not seen it yet.

“We’re very happy that the DOJ acted with dispatch with a clarificatory opinion. We will use this to guide us,” Paje said.

Paje said the DENR would study how to implement the DOJ opinion, which invalidated the special permit issued by Atienza to Lupa Pigegetawan Mining Co.

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‘Dangerous leadership’

Cerilles had asked Paje to void the permit, which covered contested mining land. He also asked the DENR to issue a cease-and-desist order against the mining firm. The presence of Lupa Pigegetawan’s armed guards has driven away residents and Subanen in Bayog town.

“The DENR is the primary government agency responsible for the conservation, management, development and proper use of the state’s mineral resources,” said Cerilles. He said issuing special permits is a “policy of permit first, requirements later on.”

“What a dangerous leadership in the DENR,” he said.

In Tagum City, Gov. Arturo Uy of Compostela Valley said his province is “very strict” in granting permits to big mining firms and small-scale miners seeking to exploit the province’s rich gold deposits.

Uy said the provincial government sees to it that the law is being followed and that applicants would pass through regular processes before their mining applications are granted.

No shortcuts

“We grant small-scale mining permits in coordination with the MGB and the EMB (Environmental Management Bureau),” said Uy.

“The MGB issues the status clearance of the area being applied for while the EMB grants the environmental compliance certificate (ECC). We do not grant permits without (the applicant) passing through this process,” Uy told Inquirer by phone.

Compostela Valley is host to several mining sites where dozens of big mining firms and thousands of small-time miners operate. In 2008, the provincial board passed and approved a provincial mining ordinance which laid down the rules and regulations related to mining operations there.

Uy said the stricter processes of granting mining permits ensured the close regulation and monitoring of mining activities in the province.

“We also require applicants to seek clearance from Department of Public Works and Highways, National Irrigation Administration, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and other concerned government agencies,” he said. Julie S. Alipala and Frinston Lim, Inquirer Mindanao and Kristine Alave in Manila

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TAGS: Department of Justice, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, Mines and Geosciences Bureau, mining permits, Zamboanga del Sur Antonio Cerilles
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