THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources supports a proposal by Speaker Gloria M. Arroyo to ban open-pit mining, Undersecretary Jonas R. Leones said on Tuesday.
“We believe that we support that bill. In fact, the President has already spoken that he’s not supporting open-pit,” Mr. Leones told reporters in a news conference at Seda Vertis North in Quezon City.
“We welcome this development because when they pass this bill, it will be subjected to various consultations and studies before imposing the ban on open-pit mining. We hope there will be available options for the mining sector without resorting to open-pit mining,” Mr. Leones added.
Ms. Arroyo said that her proposal backs President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s call to ban open-pit mining at his last State of the Nation Address. The proposed bill will include an imposition of excise taxes on non-compliant mining companies.
“In other words, our bill will specifically, will explicitly prohibit open-pit mining as defined and give a grace period to be determined by the DENR during which they pay the tax,” Ms. Arroyo has said.
Mr. Leones noted that Mr. Duterte could have issued an executive order but instead entrusted the matter to the House of Representatives.
“While [Mr. Duterte] is very categorical that he really is not supporting open-pit [mining], he’s giving the assignment of amending the mining law to the Congress instead of issuing an executive order,” Mr. Leones said.
“Usually, concerned agencies are required to submit their comments and rest assured that the DENR-MGB (Mines and Geosciences Bureau) will be actively collaborating with the Congress to make sure that we will be coming up with a very good amendment,” he added.
Mr. Leones also explained the need for exploration in assessing the viability of an area for mining.
“The purpose of allowing exploration is really to determine the viability of mining activities in a certain area. We need to determine the volume of mineral deposits so that we can carefully plan mining activities,” according to Mr. Leones.
Meanwhile, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (CoMP) said that any imposition of a tax measure could greatly affect the industry.
“It will have a major impact on the industry. Many miners may close,” Rocky G. Dimaculangan, vice-president for communications of CoMP, told reporters in an interview.
“We will continue our consultations with the government on all proposed legislation pertaining to large-scale mining,” according to Mr. Dimaculangan.
He also noted that the Philippines has significant mineral resources, which should not be neglected.
“We are rich in resources… No other country in the world with mineral wealth has chosen to turn its back on the opportunity to make life better for their country by responsibly extracting and mining their resources,” Mr. Dimaculangan said.
Mr. Dimaculangan added that even before a mining company can operate, it has to implement environmental programs in compliance with the laws of the country. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio