PHILIPPINE STAR/ EDD GUMBAN

THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has imposed a moratorium on the acceptance of new applications for special exploration permits or government seabed quarry permits.

The DENR issued Administrative Order (AO) 171-2022 on May 2 after President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s directive to stop accepting applications for reclamation activities.

“The President directed the DENR and the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) to put on hold the acceptance of all new applications for reclamation projects in the country; and ensure that the pending applications strictly comply with all legal requirements,” the order read.

Under the order, there will be a moratorium on the acceptance of all new applications for special exploration permit/government seabed quarry permits until another presidential directive is issued.

A copy of AO 171-2022 was published in a newspaper on Monday. It will take effect after 15 days.

Seabed quarrying refers to the process of extracting, removing and disposing of quarry resources found in offshore areas. It is usually considered for massive land reclamation projects.

The PRA approves bids and awards for contracts for government reclamation projects.

The DENR issues the final permit for any company planning to undertake seabed quarrying and mining.

In 2021, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) received six government seabed quarry permit (GSQP) applications, according to MGB Director Wilfredo G. Moncano.

“We have a total of 10 officially accepted GSQP applications. We are waiting for their compliance with the Area Status and Clearance before we proceed to the next stage of evaluation. If they failed to comply with the Area Status and Clearance within the prescribed period, we will be denying their applications,” he said in a text message.

Mr. Moncano said that there were another four GSQP applications filed before the moratorium that were still not officially accepted.

Meanwhile, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. Chief Economist Michael L. Ricafort said that the DENR’s order was a step towards ensuring that the local mining and quarrying industry remain environmentally sustainable.

“There is a need to align the global best practices on mining activities, in terms of sustainability and minimize adverse impact on the environment. Increased international compliance with [environmental] standards by both international and local regulators in recent years would place more stringent environment standards, by carefully weighing the environmental damage or impact of those activities over the long-term compared to economic gains derived,” he said in a text message.

“This is also consistent with the increased need to sustain the country’s marine resources amid the country’s importation of fish in recent months,” he added.

In December 2021, the government lifted the four-year ban on open-pit mining.

In April, President Rodrigo R. Duterte had also lifted the nine-year moratorium on granting mining permits. — Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson