|Aaron Roi B. Riturban|
The previous government had adopted an anti-mining stance, imposing a moratorium on the approval of new mineral agreements. As a result, key players in the Philippine mining industry have been cautiously optimistic and looking forward to the positive changes that the new administration might introduce. This was particularly the case when the presidential election frontrunner (who is now the President of the Republic of the Philippines) declared that he would support responsible mining in the country and honour existing mining contracts.
However, that optimism appears to be have been short-lived as the first official act of the new secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) was to issue a memorandum that not only sustained the moratorium on the approval of new mining projects but also launched a comprehensive review of all operating mines in the Philippines. This was to:
(i) determine the adequacy and efficiency of the environmental protection measures of each mining operation;
(ii) identify gaps in environmental protection measures; and
(iii) determine the appropriate penalties in the case of violation of mining and environmental laws.
To date, the ongoing audit has resulted in the suspension of 10 mining companies for violating environmental standards. Meanwhile, 20 mining companies face possible suspension of their operations. In fact, the DENR had announced that, based on its audit, only 11 out of the 41 operating metallic mines in the Philippines are fit to continue operations. The violations cited include: water discolouration due to siltation; soil erosion; lack of social development and rehabilitation projects; destruction of the forest: tree cutting without the relevant permits; and inadequate preventive measures in the mining areas.
While these results demonstrate the present administration's resolve to enforce environmental standards, there is a growing concern among stakeholders that these developments could dissuade future investment in the industry.
Aaron Roi B. Riturban