Sen. Richard Gordon seeks higher fines vs erring mining firms
Marvin Sy (The Philippine Star) - January 13, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — In a bid to foster responsible mining in the country, Sen. Richard Gordon is pushing for the imposition of stiffer penalties against erring mining firms.

Gordon filed Senate Bill 1633 calling for the amendment of Section 9 of Presidential Decree 1586 or the Environmental Impact Statement System Law, which he said contains outdated penalties against irresponsible mining firms.

Under the bill, a fine ranging from P500,000 to P2 million for every violation of the terms and conditions of the Environmental Compliance Certificates held by the mining firms and the standards, rules and regulations issued by the National Environmental Protection Council, depending on the effect and damage caused by the violation.

“We have to raise the penalty for mining violations. The fines provided for in Presidential Decree 1586 have to be updated because the maximum penalty of P50,000 (and in some instances, a paltry P25,000) is not realistic anymore. This is why I am also proposing that the violator be made to shoulder the full cost of the rehabilitation, reparation or restoration of the damage caused by their violation,” Gordon said.

Gordon filed the bill in response to the recommendations contained in the report of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee on the destructive mining operations or illegal excavations in Zambales.

As chairman of the committee, Gordon pointed out that while the government deplores indiscriminate and untrammeled mining leading to environmental degradation, these activities provide a significant contribution to the economy.

“What we need is responsible mining. Responsible mining is finding ways to extract and process mineral resources with the least environmental disruption and damage. Mining need not be stopped but it must be adequately regulated,” Gordon said.

During the term of former environment secretary Gina Lopez, she pushed for a total ban on open pit mining, which drew widespread protests from the mining industry and eventually led to her being rejected by the Commission on Appointments.

“We do not have to burn the whole house to catch a rat. If a commercial plane crashes because the airline did not follow maintenance standards, do we ban the entire aviation industry from flying the skies? If buses and jeepneys figure in road mishaps because of lack of discipline among drivers or lack of proper maintenance of the vehicles, do we prevent the entire land transportation industry from plying the streets? No, because these industries are crucial to our everyday lives. We stop the violators, impose stricter regulations and ensure full compliance,” Gordon said.

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu has called for the creation of Environment Management and Mines Units within the department’s provincial and community offices.

“We already have existing laws on clean air, clean water and solid and hazardous waste management, but we lack enforcement to fully implement them,” he said.– With Rhodina Villanueva

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