Mining EO upholds primacy of national laws – Paje

Salceda said the Supreme Court is a probable battleground

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang’s much-awaited executive order (EO) on mining will reiterate the “primacy” of national laws over local ordinances, according to Environment Secretary Ramon Paje.

Unless these ordinances have been rendered illegal, however, the national government will have no choice but to uphold them, Paje said.

He cited the case of Sagittarius Mining Inc, which operates the $6-billion Tampakan copper-gold mine in Cotabato. Paje denied the company’s application for an environmental compliance certificate in January because of an existing ban on open-pit mining in the province. 

“Unless it’s rendered illegal, to us, it’s still an ordinance,” Paje told reporters in a workshop on investigative reporting on the environment.

Paje said this amid the backlash over one of the most contentious provisions of the draft mining EO — “Principle No. 4” or “Agenda No. 4” that asserts the primacy of national laws over local ordinances.

The mining EO was supposed to have been released Friday, June 22, but Presidential Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang said it was yet to be signed by President Aquino.

Paje said he met with Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima Friday afternoon to fine-tune the draft EO. “There were no major objections [on the draft],” he said.

President Aquino earlier said he found some provisions of the EO “superfluous” and wanted them changed. He indicated taxes imposed on mining firms should be raised and as many as 78 areas in the country would be declared no-mining zones.

Paje said the EO contains the following provisions:

a. Mining will be banned in primary agricultural lands and tourist destinations. When asked, however, if this means mining will be prohibited in Palawan, Paje said this depends on how the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) will define or identify tourist spots. The PCSD has been criticized for allegedly allowing mining in natural forests.

b. The climate change cluster and economic cluster will merge to form a mining industry council.

Anti-mining ordinances

If the new mining EO contains “Principle No. 4,” local anti-mining ordinances will be questioned before the Supreme Court, Albay Governor Joey Salceda, a partymate of President Aquino and one of the staunchest critics of mining, said.

“At the end of the day, they will just have to go to each and every one of these ordinances and have them invalidated,” Salceda told the reporters in the workshop.

Salceda, who is also head of the Regional Development Council, said there are 40 local ordinances that ban mining in different provinces.

Albay is one of the provinces that have a mining-free policy. But there is one mining company operating there — Rapu-Rapu — because their permit was granted before the ban was put in place in 2011.

Paje however said the legality of the ordinances need not be questioned before the High Court, noting there are other ways to render them invalid. He said the local council or the Sanggunian can invalidate an ordinance. –

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