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Mining firms doubt fairness of DENR audit

/ 04:28 AM September 23, 2016

Large-scale miners on Thursday cast doubt at the fairness of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) audit of all mining companies in the country, the results of which are expected to be finally made public on Monday.

“The mines audit conducted were not totally impartial,” said Ronald Recidoro, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines’ (COMP) vice president for legal and policy matters.

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The COMP lamented the inclusion of representatives from antimining civil society organizations (CSO)—such as the Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM)—in the audit teams, as ordered by Environment Secretary Gina Lopez.

The ATM is backing a proposed law that Sen. Risa Hontiveros filed last month and which antimining advocates called the Alternative Minerals Management Bill, intended to replace the Mining Act of 1995.

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Recidoro said COMP members reported that CSO “did nothing but air their opposition to the mining project.”

“None of the CSO representatives included in the audit teams were expert in any field that may be relevant to the audit process,” the lawyer said.

Disproportionate

“The antimining CSOs who were disproportionately represented in the audit teams were allegedly harassing the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) representatives when they have favorable findings on the mining project,” he added.

Recidoro also said regular mine audit protocols were not observed and that there was no qualified expert to assess the social acceptability of the mine operations being audited.

“Several mining projects were even suspended prior to the start of the actual audit,” he said. “Several of our members have complained that procedures to ensure fairness and transparency in the audit were absent, including the conduct of an exit audit conference where the DENR would have informed the company about initial findings.”

“Several mining projects were even suspended prior to the start of the actual audit,” he said. “Several of our members have complained that procedures to ensure fairness and transparency in the audit were absent, including the conduct of an exit audit conference where the DENR would have informed the company about initial findings.”

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Undue influence

“We are deeply concerned that the presence of the CSO representatives opposed to large-scale mining in the audit team will unduly influence results of the audit, specifically community satisfaction and social acceptability,” he added.

The COMP has earlier expressed support for the Duterte administration’s moves toward strict implementation of environmental protection laws, saying that its members follow such regulations.

In August, COMP president Benjamin Philip G. Romualdez said the group member’s “had nothing to fear” amid the ongoing audit.

Premature

On Wednesday, Lopez expressed anger over what she described as the premature disclosure of the results of the audit for the coal mine of Semirara Mining and Power Corp. (SMPC).

She called out Jonathan P. Bulos, regional director of EMB Region 6, for giving to SMPC copies of audit reports that apparently show results that are favorable to the company.

“Moving forward, we ask for future mine audits conducted by the DENR to be kept impartial, free from any bias, and involving only DENR personnel and acknowledged experts in the fields relevant in the review,” Recidoro said.

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TAGS: antimining civil society organizations, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Mining, Nation, News
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