QUEZON CITY, Philippines – Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu has announced that the government will soon ban open-pit mining in the country.
Cimatu made the announcement during the commemoration of the 31st anniversary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Wednesday (July 4) in line with the directive from President Rodrigo Duterte.
“Open pit mining, isasara talaga iyan kung hindi mag shape-up (Open pit mining will really be shut down if they don’t shape up). We have to reinvent mining. Find a way to extract minerals by not using open-pit mining,” Cimatu said.
Earlier this week, Duterte revealed his plans for the country’s mining industry in an event in Samar on Monday (July 2). He said the government may be earning P70 billion from mining, but this does not compensate the huge amount of damage it causes to the environment that’s why he is determined to stop it.
“So every now and then, there’s always destruction. Ang pag-asa ninyo ani siguro mga mining–mining but ako (You probably put your hopes on mining, but me) I do not encourage it because one of these days I will stop mining actually,” Duterte said.
All 27 mining sites that former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez ordered closed and suspended are currently undergoing review.
Based on the initial results of the review released by the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC), only four of the 27 have violated environmental laws.
Anti-mining advocates, meanwhile, said they are not convinced by the report.
“Hindi pa kumpleto, hindi pa tapos, kaya nagtataka kami mukhang premature itong announcement ni DOF Usec Agabin na magrerekomenda na sila nung pagbubukas nung 22 na mining operations na ipinasara,” said Aliansang Tigil Mina National Coordinator Jaybee Garbanera.
(The report is not yet complete. This announcement by DOF Usec Agabin about recommending the lifting of the ban against 22 mining operations seems premature.)
Even Lopez herself is not satisfied with the MICC’s review.
“If you silt the sea you kill the marine life there, you affect the fishermen, you affect the corals. It is a no no! it is affecting the constitutional rights of the fishermen,” said the former DENR Secretary.
Cimatu, meanwhile, said the complete report on MICC’s mining audit review is expected to be out in August. – Rey Pelayo / Marje Pelayo