MGB proposes lifting of ban on open-pit mining

Jee Y. Geronimo
MGB proposes lifting of ban on open-pit mining
Mines and Geosciences Bureau Director Wilfredo Moncano says they are consulting with the Mining Industry Coordinating Council regarding the proposal

MANILA, Philippines – The environment department’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) is proposing to lift the ban on open-pit mining that was issued by former environment secretary Gina Lopez.

“The other administrative order that we’re also proposing for lifting is the [Department Administrative Order 2017-10], which is the ban on open-pit mining,” MGB Director Wilfredo Moncano told senators during the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) budget hearing on Tuesday, August 29.

Moncano was answering Senator Francis Escudero’s questions regarding the mining policies of the DENR.

He said they are consulting with the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) regarding the proposal to lift the ban on open-pit mining. 

Lopez announced the ban on April 27 – almost a week before she was rejected by the powerful Commission on Appointments on May 3.

While she announced that the ban covers “prospective open-pit mines,” her order reads: “The use of the open pit method of mining for the extraction of copper, gold, silver and/or complex ores is hereby prohibited.”

Aside from Lopez’s order, Moncano said they are also reviewing the government’s policy on mining under Executive Order 79.

“For example, the Minahang Bayan (People’s Small-Scale Mining Areas), it becomes very cumbersome. The processing of applications for Minahang Bayan is cumbersome,” he explained.

The DENR’s P27.12-billion ($530.83-million) budget for 2018 includes a P399.29-million ($7.82-million) allocation for geohazards, groundwater assessment, and responsible mining.

Among the department’s targets is the strict monitoring of 50 metallic and 62 non-metallic operating mines in the country.

Senate bill, illegal miners

On Tuesday, Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri also asked Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu for his comment on Senate Bill 1541, which seeks to increase the excise tax on non-metallic and metallic minerals and mineral products, and quarry products.

“Ang kagandahan po nito, hindi po tayo ang gagastos; sila na po ang gagastos (What’s good with this proposal is, it’s not the government that will spend; it’s the mining companies that will spend). We will increase taxes earmarked for human resource development,” Zubiri, who filed the bill, explained.

Cimatu said the DENR is “supportive” of the proposal.

During his second State of the Nation Address, President Rodrigo Duterte also warned mining companies of steep taxes if they do not spend enough on the rehabilitation of areas that host their operations.

But on Tuesday, Senator Cynthia Villar made a manifestation, urging the DENR to go after illegal miners who, according to her, are the ones destroying the envinroment.

“I hope that the DENR will look into this kasi kahit parusahan natin ng parusahan ‘yung mga big mining companies, if we cannot stop the illegal mining, eh wala ring mangyayari sa ating environment, ‘di natin maso-solve ‘yung problem,” Villar said.

(I hope that the DENR will look into this because even if we keep imposing fines on big mining companies, if we cannot stop the illegal mining, nothing will happen with our environment.)

She added: “Actually, the problems are made by illegal loggers and illegal miners. It’s not the big mining companies who are following the law, who are doing their job, who are just earning enough para may reasonable returns sila sa kanilang investors (so that they have reasonable returns to their investors).”

Cimatu said the DENR has created a task force that will look into the problem of illegal mining.

Senator Loren Legarda – chairperson of the Senate committee on finance – also asked the MGB to submit a list of mining operations that are legal, as well as the alleged “illegal miners.” – Rappler.com

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.