Surigao del Sur gov joins miners vs Gina Lopez
SURIGAO DEL SUR, Philippines – Surigao del Sur Governor Vicente Pimentel Jr on Wednesday, February 15, joined miners in calling out Environment Secretary Gina Lopez for ordering the closure and suspension of mining operations in parts of the country, including his province.
Pimentel said Lopez, in her alleged haste to close some mining operations, shut her eyes and ears to the pleas of the mining industry.
“She did not follow due process. In fact, when they had an audit in the mining companies, the members of the audit team are the Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), and the priests,” Pimentel claimed.
He said the audit team should have included geologists and mining engineers who are experts in the field.
Three of the 23 mining operations facing closure are in the province – Carrascal Nickel Corporation in Carrascal, Pimentel's hometown; Marcventures Mining and Development Corporation in Cantillan; and CTP Construction & Mining Corporation in Tandag.
Lopez, who also ordered the cancellation of 75 mineral production sharing agreements (MPSAs) in watersheds all over the country, has stood firm in her decision, which is supported by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Lopez had said that Duterte has the final say on the mining closures and suspensions, as the companies can appeal her decision with the Office of the President.
She had also repeatedly emphasized that she followed due process when auditing the mining operations. "I have followed the rule of law at every single, single step of the way," Lopez said after mining firms criticized the outcome of her department's mining audit in early February.
Pimentel said that in his province, "Australian standards" in mining are being observed and followed by mining companies. He said 3 mining companies in Carrascal have been operating for 10 years now, but there have been no damage related to their operations.
He said Carrascal alone earns P210 million from mining hosting mining firms, and has its own hospital, and heavy equipment for the maintenance of farm-to-market roads.
"What can you ask for? No more dynamite fishing, because fishermen are already employed; the highway robbery stopped,” Pimentel said.
He said his province would be adversely affected by the mining closures, as well as indigenous peoples who earn royalties from resources extorted from their ancestral lands. Pimentel said losing such revenues would make IPs vulnerable to the influence of communist rebels.
On environmental concerns, the governor said the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the DENR and the Multisectoral Monitoring Team conduct regular inspections of the mining sites.
On Lopez's plan to push for eco-tourism as an alternative to mining, Pimentel said: “Gina Lopez spoke about eco-tourism, how can that help Cantilan and Carrascal when there is not a single investment in tourism development? Where will you send people to work?”
Pimentel believed that mining and ecotourism can co-exist just as agriculture and mining have, in Surigao del Sur.
The environment chief believes, however, that it is illegal for a mine to operate inside watersheds.
"Water is life. If you put at risk the water supply of the community there, you are putting at risk the quality of life of the people," Lopez said on Tuesday. – Rappler.com