In this July 1, 2016 photo, Environment Secretary Gina Lopez receives the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) flag from outgoing chief Ramon Paje during the turnover ceremony at the DENR office along Visayas Ave. in Quezon City.
Michael Varcas, File
Lopez worries about possible mining links of MICC review members
Louise Maureen Simeon (philstar.com) - April 20, 2017 - 12:40pm
MANILA, Philippines — The Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) is under a new disagreement after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) expressed that it wants to immediately start the formal multi-stakeholder review on the existing contracts of all mining companies even if the proposed P50-million budget has yet to be released.
The P50-million budget for the jumpstart of the review has yet to be released by the Department of Budget and Management, which was also requested by the Department of Finance (DOF), which co-chairs the MICC along with the DENR.
“I want to start the process now even without the money. I'm a little worried that the representative of DOF who’s charing the process in the absence of the Secretary (Carlos Dominguez) is involved with a mining company,” Lopez said in a briefing Wednesday.
The environment chief is referring to Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin.
Environment Undersecretary Maria Paz Luna added that the DOF does not want to start the review process unless the budget has been approved.
“That's the assumption because that's where they will get the expenses. But for us, we want to start immediately. Considering that they will be the ones to get the funds, they will also be the ones to get the experts,” Luna said.
“We're trying to say is that we will just be the one to request for that for the MICC since the IRR (implementing rules and regulations) for which the MICC money is needed, is a DAO of DENR, not DOF. It might also be hard for them with COA (Commission on Audit) if they will hire consultants under them,” Luna explained.
Lopez earlier wrote to President Rodrigo Duterte questioning the budget proposal of the DOF but she has yet to receive a response.
Furthermore, Lopez is wary of the composition of the planned multi-stakeholder team, emphasizing the even one of the heads (Agabin) is involved with the mining industry.
“If the people involved have business links to mining, then let’s just not have it [review]. What advise will they give? The lens that they are looking is not on social justice. We shouldn’t have any links to mining and it should be objective. But they are already looking at it with a certain bias,” she said.
“I'm worried that the co-chair has appointed somehow who is a mining lawyer. I'm not judging him. I have met very good mining lawyers who I feel are really good. I don't want to polarize the Philippine society,” Lopez added.
While Lopez seems to be amenable now with the council’s decision, she maintained that the MICC's role remains recommendatory.
“It is still recommendatory and it does not supersede my decision. The reason why the MICC was formed is to recommend, and not go over above the secretary. If MICC does that, it's like usurping the function of DENR which is to review mining operations,” Lopez said.
“There's nothing in the MICC that they can review mining operations. That's the role of DENR. What they can do is recommend things for policy. The role of the MICC is to do research for policy recommendations but not review mining operations. That's a function of DENR,” she added.
The DENR is still optimistic that it can start the review within the month as originally scheduled.
The MICC has decided to create a sub-committee that will filter the composition of the teams that would conduct the review.
There will be five teams composed of five members each belonging to various sectors—technical, economic, environmental, social and legal. The review would take off from existing reports such as audit report or checklists prepared and developed by the DENR audit team and technical review committee.
These would also include multi-partite monitoring team reports, company quarterly reports submitted to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, and minutes of the exit conference.
The review shall be based on the guidelines and parameters set forth in the specific mining contract and other pertinent laws, taking into account the valid exercise of the state’s police power to serve the common good.
Last February 2, Lopez ordered the closure of 23 of the country’s 41 operational mines and suspended five others for alleged violations including being located in watersheds and polluting bodies of waters.
This was followed by the cancellation of 75 mineral production sharing agreements (MPSAs) that were in the pre-operation stage.
The DENR’s closure and suspension orders are seen to cost 17 affected cities and municipalities in 10 provinces over P821 million in foregone revenues annually.
April 24, 2017 - 7:31pm by: Iris Gonzales
March 20, 2017 - 12:00am