Top Story

Environment chief eyes end-July completion of mine sanction review

Posted on June 28, 2017

THE ENVIRONMENT department hopes to complete next month its own review of appeals filed by miners hit by closure or suspension orders issued in February.

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu
“We are actually doing everything to fast-track all these things, but we are not yet prepared to make some announcements. So bear with me for a while,” Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu told reporters on the sidelines of a Southeast Asian forum on sustainable urbanization yesterday in Pasay City.

Asked for a timetable for completion of the review, Mr. Cimatu replied: “Hopefully by next month we can come up with the decision on appeals regarding” the affected mining contracts.

Mr. Cimatu has said he plans to visit mines in the world’s top nickel ore supplier to see if they are operating responsibly, as he takes a slow approach towards a sector that was the target of a 10-month crackdown led by his predecessor, staunch environmentalist Regina Paz L. Lopez.

Mr. Cimatu took over on May 8 from Ms. Lopez, who had ordered the closure or suspension of 26 of the country’s 41 operating mines and revoked 75 other contracts of those in pre-operation stage, citing various environmental infractions.

Miners had countered that the process that led to the sanctions did not observe due process and lacked clear scientific basis besides.

Many of them appealed directly to the office of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, effectively staying Ms. Lopez’s orders.

Environment Undersecretary for Administration, Finance and Management Demetrio L. Ignacio, Jr. clarified that the department will act only on motions for reconsideration filed with the Office of the Secretary. “The secretary is hoping by end of July tapos na lahat ng review,” Mr. Ignacio told reporters yesterday.

Sought for comment, Environment Undersecretary for Legal Maria Paz G. Luna replied in a mobile phone message that “... [W]e will abide by what Sec (retary Cimatu) said in terms of timetable and we are ready to do so,” adding that the department itself received 13 motions for reconsideration.

“We have a system of weekly case conference, so I have confidence it can be done,” she added. -- Janina C. Lim with Reuters