By Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan
THE RESULTS of a technical review of the 26 mining sites ordered closed or suspended by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) are set to be presented to the inter-agency Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) today.
Finance Undersecretary Bayani H. Agabin said in a mobile phone message yesterday the technical review team will discuss its findings with the MICC, after completing the first phase of the review which involved visits to mine sites, impact areas and host communities.
The review conducted by independent mining experts began in March — a little over a year since then-Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez ordered the closure of 26 mines over environmental violations.
Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Director Wilfredo G. Moncano meanwhile said in a phone interview: “We expect that the findings will show that some mining companies who fail and some that have passed their parameters.”
The first phase of the technical review addresses the legal, technical and environmental concerns on mining operations. The second phase, which covers the social and economic aspects of the mining operations, is expected to take another three months.
“From this meeting, the MICC will decide what to do with these findings,” Mr. Moncano said, but added President Rodrigo R. Duterte will make the final decision on the MICC recommendation.
To recall, the MICC in October 2017 recommended the lifting of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) order banning open-pit mining — but the President has yet to act upon it.
“Upon learning whatever will be the findings, and what will be the penalties, mining companies still have the right to appeal,” Mr. Moncano said.
The review teams visited iron, gold, copper, chromite and nickel mines in the Cordillera Administrative Region, Cagayan Valley, Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan, Central Luzon, Eastern Visayas and the Caraga region.
Chamber of Mines of the Philippines Executive Director Ronaldo S. Recidoro said earlier that he welcomed the independent review initiative, as it will give its mining operations a “fair assessment.”
The MICC, which was created in 2012, is tasked to ensure full enforcement of environmental standards, review the performance of existing mining operations, ensure that mining sites operate inside designated areas, establish mineral reservations, and dispose of mine wastes.
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, who co-chairs the MICC with Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, had previously said he wants the rest of the country’s mines be subjected to an independent audit.