Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Paz Lopez, in a press briefing in Malacañan on Feb. 9, 2017, says her agency is gearing towards the establishment of E3 zone (ecological, economical, and educational) programs in areas where mining firms will be closed.
King Rodriguez/Presidential Photo
DENR mining ban sparks 'heated' exchange in Cabinet
Alexis Romero (philstar.com) - February 12, 2017 - 5:12pm
MANILA, Philippines — There were heated discussions on the Environment department’s order to close more than 20 mining firms during last week’s Cabinet meeting, Malacañang revealed Sunday.
 
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said the discussions about the issue were so long that it nearly bumped off other topics in the agenda. 
 
“Base doon sa naging Cabinet meeting noong huli ay naging mainit po ang diskusyon sa loob ng gabinete pagdating po doon sa naging audit ng DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) (During the last Cabinet meeting, the discussions inside the Cabinet about the audit of DENR were heated),” Andanar said in an interview with radio station dzRB.
 
“At dahil nga sa sobrang init ng diskusyon ay sabi ni - ng isa sa mga miyembro ng gabinete na dapat ay pag-usapan na lamang ito doon sa isang cluster meeting na kung saan nandoon ‘yung Department of Finance at ang DENR para pag-usapan ito separately during that time. Eh hindi na napag-uusapan ‘yung ibang mga issues dahil sa mahabang diskusyon (Because the discussions were so heated, a member of the Cabinet suggested that the issue be discussed separately in a cluster meeting with the Department of Finance and DENR. Other issues are being set aside because of the long discussion),” he added.
 
Andanar said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and DENR Secretary Gina Lopez have issued a joint resolution about the matter.
 
“We all know that in a cluster meeting, of course, all of the people there are alter-egos of the president. So whatever is being decided upon from any cluster meeting that is the official report from the Palace,” he said. 
 
DENR has ordered the closure of 23 metallic mines and suspended five others for “serious” environmental violations. 
 
The orders were based on the final results of the multisectoral audit teams formed to look into the compliance of mining operators with existing environmental laws and regulations.
 
The Finance department has claimed that the DENR orders would cost affected local governments in 10 provinces over P650 million yearly in foregone revenues. The provinces to be affected by the orders are Benguet, Nueva Vizcaya, Palawan, Cebu, Bulacan, Zambales, Eastern Samar, Dinagat Islands, Surigao Del Norte and Surigao Del Sur.
 
Malacañang has assured the affected mining companies that they would be given the opportunity to answer or even dispute the findings of the DENR audit. President Rodrigo Duterte, however, has the final say on the closure of the mining firms.
 
Last week, the Mining Industry Coordinating Council, a Cabinet oversight body, announced that it would form a multi-stakeholder review of the mining operations in the country. 
 
Those found guilty of violating mining contracts, laws and regulations, after observance of due process, would be meted the appropriate penalty under relevant laws, the council said in a resolution issued last Thursday.

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