ENVIRONMENT Secretary Maria Antonia Y. Loyzaga said mining must be regulated in a “balanced” way to both protect the environment and raise revenue for the government to support the economic recovery.
“We need minerals. How we balance that really depends our understanding of the complexities of the different contexts that we are actually faced with. We cannot choose just one approach. We need to be sensitive to everything else that is going on,” Ms. Loyzaga said during the Mindanao leg of a consultation with mining stakeholders in Cagayan de Oro City last week.
Asked on how she plans to address stakeholders opposing mining, Ms. Loyzaga said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) plans to consult broadly before arriving at a balanced policy on mining.
“We’re here to listen and until we can be satisfied that we have heard all stakeholders, we cannot achieve balance in terms of the approach, geographically and socially, and it differs. These complexities need to be addressed in whatever approach that we will take moving forward,” Ms. Loyzaga said.
In January, Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno said the mining industry has the “greatest potential” to support the economic recovery and long-term growth.
The Philippines is deemed one of the most mineral-rich countries in the world. The value of Philippine metallic mineral output in the first nine months of 2022 rose 29.21% to P175.61 billion, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau said in December.
According to Ms. Loyzaga, the DENR will also review Republic Act (RA) 7076 or the People’s Small-scale Mining Act and RA 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act, to verify whether they are consistent with other laws governing water, air, waste handling, and climate change.
“We will be reviewing the Philippine mining laws, both the Small-Scale Mining Act and the 1995 Mining Act. These are all to be reviewed within the lens of the Clean Water, Clean Air, Solid Waste, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Acts,” Ms. Loyzaga said.
Ms. Loyzaga added that the DENR is in the process of adopting a “mitigation hierarchy” which will govern how the department reacts to ecosystem-damaging events.
She described the mitigation hierarchy as “If you can avoid it, you must. If you can reduce it, you must. If you need to rehabilitate, you must. And if you cannot fully rehabilitate, you must be engaged in some form of compensatory action. At this point, this approach has still not been fully fleshed out,” Ms. Loyzaga said.
“It will entail the consideration of the environment enhancement program that each of the mining companies needs to actually undertake, the progressive rehabilitation program that they are going to propose, and the social development and management program (SDMP) that they’re actually also mandated to put into operation,” she added.
“We’re actively engaging both the pro- and anti-mining communities in discussions. There is a multi-sector advisory council for each of the bureaus that will be launched very soon. And for the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, we have engaged both from the pro-and anti-mining sector, as well as from the science and the business community,” she added. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave