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DENR chief calls for review of mining law in PH

/ 12:27 AM August 05, 2016
‘GILO’ AND DIGONG IN DAVAO     President Duterte, who has threatened to destroy oligarchs, says not all the rich are bad, citing Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, whom he describes as a billionaire but an environmental advocate.  At left is Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles. At right is presidential chief aide Bong Go. KENT CAPUTE/DAVAO CITY INFORMATION OFFICE

‘GILO’ AND DIGONG IN DAVAO President Duterte, who has threatened to destroy oligarchs, says not all the rich are bad, citing Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, whom he describes as a billionaire but an environmental advocate. At left is Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles. At right is presidential chief aide Bong Go. KENT CAPUTE/DAVAO CITY INFORMATION OFFICE

DAVAO CITY—Environment Secretary Gina Lopez on Thursday said she would initiate a review of the 1995 Philippine Mining Act that opened the country’s mining sector to 100-percent foreign ownership, which she described as “treasonous and should not have been passed at all.”

“It must be reviewed,” Lopez said, citing a recent statement of Jesuit priest Joel Tabora, president of Ateneo de Davao University, about the mining law.

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“In my view, the 1995 mining act is treasonous because our Constitution says that the minerals belong to the state, which means they belong to the people,” Tabora said.

Speaking to local reporters on the sidelines of the Mindanao Environment Summit, Lopez said the mining law allowed “foreign companies to take the country’s minerals away almost for free.”

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“It’s time for all of us to demand that this treasonous law be repealed and replaced with a [law] that would be in the interest of the Filipino people,” she said.

“My commitment for Mindanao is social justice,” Lopez said.

“The definition of social justice is that the resources of Mindanao must necessarily be enjoyed by the people of Mindanao,” she added.

Lopez called for the shutdown of Claver Minerals Development Corp. in Surigao del Norte province for violations of environmental laws.

3 firms under audit

She said three other big mining companies are undergoing an environmental audit.

Undergoing audit are Taganito Mining Corp. and Greenstone Resources Corp., both in Surigao del Norte and Sagittarius Mines Inc. in Tampakan, South Cotabato province.

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Taganito is involved in nickel mining, Greenstone in gold processing and Sagittarius in gold and copper mining.

The results of the audit are expected to be submitted to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) within a week, Lopez said.

She said the audit results would be the basis of a DENR decision whether to allow the companies to continue operating.

“It’s not only the technical [aspect] that is being audited, but also [the] social aspect, its effects on the water, health and the environment,” she said.

Lopez said she would also look into mining operations that threatened two protected areas in Davao Oriental province, including Mt. Hamiguitan’s pygmy forest.

“A mine in between two protected areas? That’s crazy,” she said.

“I will not wait for even an hour, they’ll have to go,” she said, referring to mining companies that have been audited and found to be degrading the environment.

Family business

Lopez said she would not hesitate to “use the full force of the law” if Energy Development Corp. (EDC), owned by her family, would be found to have violated environmental regulations.

The DENR chief was responding to complaints from residents of Negros Oriental province, where EDC plans to expand the operation of its geothermal power plant on Mt. Talinis.

Residents and environmentalists running the Save Mt. Talinis Campaign have denounced the company for allegedly damaging the protected forest on the mountain, particularly through cutting old-growth trees.

“We will look into this and I assure the public that the DENR will be fair through the entire process and take into account the concerns of all,” Lopez said in a statement.

EDC, which operates a 223-megawatt geothermal plant in Valencia town, submitted an application for environmental clearance certificate for the expansion of the plant’s capacity by 60 megawatts, she said.

Lopez said the Environmental Management Bureau had held public hearings on EDC’s application.

“Through good environmental governance, we aim to harmonize our economic activities with nature through sound practices that will not only address climate change but [also] ensure the sustainable use of our resources, conservation and preservation,” she said.

“Our concern for the environment and the pursuit of the common good transcends familial and other ties,” she added. With a report from Ronnel W. Domingo in Manila

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