MANILA, Philippines - The fines against Philex Mining Corp. for its alleged violation of the Clean Water Act could be the largest that the government will impose on a single entity for water pollution.
On Monday, February 18, Environment Undersecretary Demetrio Ignacio told reporters that as of November 2012, the penalty following the Philex's Padcal tailings pond leak in August 2012 has reached over P92 million.
But the penalty grows on a daily basis and could rake up to as much as P600,000 to P800,000 per day.
At that rate, the penalty for Philex' violation of the Clean Water Act could be around P140 million to P156 million on Monday. This is assuming that the P92 million covered the entire month of November.
Ignacio explained that what makes the violation of Philex significant is the number of violations found. He said that, normally, a violation of the Clean Water Act would be slapped P200,000 fine per day. Since Philex' violations reach around 3 or 4 instances, the value of the penalty is multiplied.
He said that among the major considerations of the fines was that the tailings pond leak at Philex's mine in Padcal in Benguet mountain province affected two water systems -- the Balog Creek and Agno Rivers -- which are counted separately.
Ignacio added that the incident did not only pollute the rivers due to huge sedimentation, but also impeded the flow of water, which is another violation of the Clean Water Act.
"According to the Philippine Water Act, impeding the flow of water is also a violation of the Clean Water Act." Ignacio stressed. "We're trying to fasttrack but I hope to have a decision by next month on the Philex penalty."
The Clean Water Act violations are separate from the Mining Act issues, for which Philex paid in full an over P1-billion fine on Monday.
Philex's appealed the P1-billion fine, but the Environment Department denied it.
Philex is again trying to appeal the Clean Water Act findings.
"We have filed an appeal to the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB). The secretary (Environment Secretary Ramon Paje) has made it very clear that this is a separate entity from the MGB (Mines and Geosciences Bureau). We are, in essence, asking for a reconsideration of the amount that is being assessed us," explained Philex vice president for corporate affairs Mike Toledo.
"This is an exercise of due process, all parties are always entitled to appeal a particular decision of any government agency so we will await, and as in the past, we will abide by the decision of the PAB," Toledo added.
The prospects are dim, noted Ignacio. "There was no instance in the past that the PAB decided to lower the penalty...If the PAB disapproves or denies the motion, they (company) can go to the Court of Appeals." - Rappler.com
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