Senate of the Philippines

Hontiveros pushes Senate probe into ‘devastation, loss’ caused by mining, quarrying

Iya Gozum

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Hontiveros pushes Senate probe into ‘devastation, loss’ caused by mining, quarrying

Committe on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality Chairperson Senator Risa Hontiveros answers questions from the media on various issues, on March 11, 2024.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

(2nd UPDATE) Senator Hontiveros says the detection of vessels with Chinese crew members engaged in dredging activities in Philippine waters also underscore the need for the investigation

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros has filed a resolution calling for a Senate investigation into the social and environmental impacts of several mining and quarrying activities in the country.

“The devastation and loss caused by mining and quarrying activities are distressing,” Hontiveros said in a statement on Monday, April 15, after she filed Proposed Senate Resolution No. 989.

“Hindi lang kabuhayan ang nawawala pati buhay ng ating mga kababayan. Kailangang punan ang mga pagkukulang sa batas para matigil na ang mga trahedyang ito,” the senator added. (Not only are people losing livelihood but their lives. We need to fill the gaps in laws to stop these tragedies.)

The proposed Senate resolution referred to several incidents allegedly triggered by mining and quarrying, such as the massive landslide in a mining town in Davao de Oro, heavy siltation of rivers in communities hosting mining operations, and increased risk of flooding in Sibuyan Island.

“Concerns have also been expressed concerning the use of mined and dredged materials to support controversial reclamation efforts in environmentally vulnerable locations such as Manila Bay, as well as aggressive Chinese island-building initiatives in the West Philippine Sea,” the senator’s office said in a press statement.

Her office also said that the detention of vessels with Chinese crew members engaged in dredging activities off the coast of Zambales as well as the alleged presence of Chinese dredging vessels in Maguindanao del Norte “further underscore the need for an investigation.”

Environmental group Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) welcomed the proposed resolution as there are already “numerous reports involving human rights violations, legal violations, and environmental damage brought about by mining and quarrying activities.”

“We hope that an investigation into the effects of these operations would eventually dissuade the national government from aggressively pursuing mining,” said Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of ATM.

Mentioned in the call for inquiry is the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and its attached bureaus Mines an Geosciences Bureau and the Environmental Management Bureau for an evaluation of existing regulatory frameworks.

The Philippine Mining Act of 1995 governs the exploration, development, and utilization of the State’s mineral resources. Currently, a bill is pending in Congress proposing amendments to the mining fiscal regime, which includes lowering the royalty rate of mining operations within mining reservations.

In a statement released on Tuesday, April 16, the DENR said it supports Hontiveros’ call for investigation on impacts of mining and quarrying.  

The agency said it had started “a comprehensive review of laws and policies governing the mining sector” and their intersections with other laws on water, air, solid waste management, climate change, and disaster risk reduction. 

DENR is optimistic that the Senate probe will give them a platform to talk about the enforcement of environmental laws. 

“We are looking forward to opportunities to discuss at the hearings the approval of the Environmental Protection and Enforcement Bureau bills, which are pending before both Houses of Congress,” the statement read. –

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Iya Gozum

Iya Gozum covers the environment, agriculture, and science beats for Rappler.