Days of special mine permits ending | Inquirer News
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Days of special mine permits ending

/ 07:44 PM October 15, 2011

ZAMBOANGA CITY—The days of special ore exploration permits (Soep) are numbered following a Department of Justice (DOJ) opinion that stripped the environment secretary of the power to issue Soeps to small scale mining operators, according to a governor of a mineral-rich province in Mindanao.

“We will make sure that the rule of law prevails,” said Zamboanga del Sur Gov. Antonio Cerilles. Soeps, he said, “shall no longer be used under our watch.”

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The DOJ opinion, issued by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, declared as invalid a Soep issued to Lupa Pipettagawan, a mining firm operating in Zamboanga del Sur. The opinion said only the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has the authority to issue Soeps.

Johann Jacildo, MGB director for Western Mindanao, however, said he was taking extra caution in commenting on the DOJ opinion. “I will have to wait for instructions,” he said.

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Cerilles, one of several governors who welcomed the DOJ ruling, said the opinion allows local governments to exercise tighter controls on mining operations, especially those in areas populated by indigenous peoples.

“We will be closely monitoring these unscrupulous businessmen who are exploiting the Subanen people,” said the governor. “This is the regulatory power of the government which everyone should abide with.”

Cerilles had asked Environment Secretary Ramon Paje to heed the DOJ opinion. The DENR chief said he would.

Paje said he would not grant mining permits until local government concerns have been addressed. “I have not issued a single new mining permit as we are committed to address first the increasing concerns aired by various sectors, including local government units, on the environmental and social impacts of mining,” Paje said last Friday.

Paje said the renewal of permits given to 10 mining firms didn’t mean the DENR was lifting a moratorium on new mining projects.

Leo Jasareno, MGB director, said the permits were renewed “after a long and tedious evaluation process.” Julie S. Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao and Kristine L. Alave in Manila

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