Multi-stakeholder review of mining firms ordered

February 13, 2017 at 16:38

Multi-stakeholder review of mining firms ordered

By Chino S. Leyco | Published 

A multi-stakeholder review on mining companies was decided late Thursday after a five-hour closed-door meeting of the inter-agency Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC).

The MICC, which is co-chaired by Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III and Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez, has advised the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to review first the performance of mining firms in the country.

Based on a resolution signed by Dominguez and Lopez, a multi-stakeholder review could center mainly on the 28 mining firms ordered by the DENR for either closure or suspension.

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Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez (left) listens as Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez speaks during a meeting of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council on February 9, 2017. Dominguez and Lopez are co-chairman of the council. (Reuters photo)

“Pursuant to [Executive Order] No. 79, the MICC shall create a multi-stakeholder review and advise the DENR on the performance of existing mining operations in consultation with local government units (LGUs),” the resolution read.

“The review shall be based on the guidelines and parameters set forth in the specific mining contract and in other pertinent laws, taking into account the valid exercise of the State’s police power to serve the common good, especially of the poor,” it added.

According to Dominguez, the multi-stakeholder review aims to provide assistance and guidance to the DENR, while ensuring that all mining stakeholders will be given  due process before any decision is made.

“Essentially, the council will assist DENR. There are considerations to be taken and the government has to prepare for the fallout on those decisions,” Dominguez told reporters after the MICC meeting held at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

“We just want to assure everybody, including local government units that may be affected, that there will be a process of listening to them in this whole process,” he added.

The review council will be composed of a sizeable group from the MICC membership, consisting of the government’s economic cluster and the climate change cluster, the finance chief said.

“There will be a technical working group that will be identified,” Dominguez added.

Lopez, meanwhile, said that she welcomes the multi-stakeholder review, while insisting that all mining operations in watersheds should be scrapped.

The Philippines’ environment minister vowed not to buckle to mounting pressure from a mining sector reeling from her shutting more than half of the country’s mines on environmental protection grounds.

Last week, Lopez has ordered the closure of 23 of the country’s 41 mines, most of which produce nickel ore, and the suspension of five more due to violations uncovered during a lengthy environmental audit.

Mines ordered for closure include those run by Hinatuan Mining Corp., a unit of top Philippine nickel ore producer Nickel Asia Corp, and BenguetCorp Nickel Mines, Inc.

The decision has rocked the global nickel market as the Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,100 islands, is the world’s biggest exporter of nickel ore.

It also angered mining firms in the country who say the process followed by the minister was neither legal nor fair.

“I am not going to buckle,” she told Reuters after a closed-door meeting of an inter-agency mining council.

The panel sought a review of her decision to close the mines to ensure due process was followed and look into the impact on jobs and taxes.

“The (council) is recommendatory to me. They’re not my boss,” Lopez said. “Nobody can tell me what to do except the president.”

Damage to watersheds and siltation of coastal waters where the mines are located were the major reasons cited that led to Lopez’s decision to shut the mines.

“It’s totally in my right to close down the mines,” Lopez said in an earlier briefing and her decision has the backing of President Rodrigo Duterte, who has the final say on the fate of the affected mines.

Fifteen of the 23 mines ordered closed are within watershed areas.

Sources told Reuters that a team that reviewed an audit of the country’s mines recommended suspension of operations and payment of fines for environmental violations, rather than closures.

Lopez said it would take a miracle to convince her to allow mining in watersheds.

She said the mining companies can appeal her decision to the office of the president. If the president upholds the closure, they can go to court but they would have to halt operations while the matter is decided.

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines is pressing the environment agency to release the audit behind the closures. (With Reuters)


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