MANILA, Philippines – The environment department suspended two more mining companies as its ongoing audit neared the one-month mark.
Environment Secretary Gina Lopez revealed on Wednesday, July 27, that the government has suspended the mining operations of Berong Nickel in Palawan, and two mining sites of Citinickel in Española and Narra, Palawan.
Director Leo Jasareno of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau said Berong Nickel caused the siltation of a river in Palawan, while Citinickel had cut trees without a permit. These, he said, are just some of the companies’ major violations.
A total of 6 mining firms have been suspended since Lopez assumed office, including the 4 companies earlier issued with a Writ of Kalikasan by the Supreme Court:
These 4 companies have two months to “get their act together” or they will be closed down. The two other firms, meanwhile, are part of the ongoing audit and will be assessed comprehensively by the department.
"So kung ano man judgment ng audit, ‘yun na ‘yun (Whatever would be the judgement of the audit, that's it),” Jasareno explained. “Once the DENR issues a decision, they have 15 days to file an appeal.”
Lopez on Wednesday showed reporters photos of the destruction caused by mining in Zambales and Palawan.
She also clarified that she is not targeting nickel mines in their audit. But she said she will not compromise too, given the rise in nickel prices due to concern over the new administration's mining policies.
"I'm just following the law. From the point of view of the law and what the President directed, these 7 [mining sites] are totally going against the spirit of the law,” Lopez said on Wednesday.
"I don’t care whether they’re nickel….I’m not targeting nickel companies, I'm targeting companies with complaints,” Lopez said, noting that her department will suspend permits when the common good is already disadvantaged,
Jasareno said the audit includes 40 metallic mines and 65 non-metallic mines in the country, with a special focus on mines located in Mindanao. Jasareno said there are complaints against around 40% of the 40 metallic mines in the country.
They expect to finish the audit by mid-August. Until then, the moratorium on new mining applications will remain in place.
Lopez said more mining companies are likely to be suspended given the number of complaints her department has received.
“We’re only suspending mining operations because they’re having adverse effects on the community. They should...do the right thing,” she added.
Will these suspensions affect the economy?
"Mining gives P982 million and 235,000 jobs and 0.004% revenue, so in terms of the economy, my God! If we went ecotourism, agriculture, value-added, saving our beauty, our economy will really hit the roof! Why don’t we we just keep our country beautiful?” she said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Concern over the Duterte administration's mining policies has helped drive global nickel prices to nearly one-year highs, according to the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines.
Asked if there will be any compromise since the price of nickel is shooting up due to the suspensions, Lopez said no.
"No compromise. Why is the price of nickel more important than the suffering of our farmers and fishermen? The most important thing is the benefit of our Filipino people – not business interest, and not the world market, our people. And that’s my intention, determination, and commitment.” – Rappler.com
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.