Climate and Environment

Lacson: Mining too big an industry to kill but can be kept 'responsible'

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Lacson: Mining too big an industry to kill but can be kept 'responsible'
Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson at a hearing of the Commission on Appointments last June 2, 2021
Facebook / Ping Lacson

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 5:54 p.m.) — Sen. Panfilo Lacson said he will ensure the "responsible" extraction of minerals and eradicate the double standard in the regulation of the mining industry if he is elected president.

In an interview with television host Boy Abunda aired Monday, Lacson agreed with President Rodrigo Duterte's orders that lifted the bans on open-pit mining and new mining agreements, which environmentalists said could hinder efforts to preserve the country's natural resources. 

"Bottomline is responsible mining... Ang mining industry, hindi naman pwede patayin kasi major industry ito ng Pilipinas," Lacson said.

(The bottomline is responsible mining… You cannot kill the mining industry because it is a major industry in the country)

"Ang masama 'yung small scale mining... Nandun ang maraming violations kaya 'yung environment is put at risk. Iyon 'yung problema. Hindi ito kung itutuloy or ipagbabawal. Dapat data-driven lagi ito at saka science based 'yung lahat ng pag-aaral," he added.

(The problem is small scale mining. Many violations are related to it that’s why the environment is put at risk. It’s not a matter of stopping it or allowing it to continue. It should be data-driven and science-based.)

But for Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment, so-called "responsible" mining led to the recent mine spill in Davao del Norte that caused the discoloration of the Maputi River.

Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) also said "responsible" mining has no legal definition so there are no policies or parameters to measure.

"Then we can't hold DENR or the mining companies accountable when they fail to comply with their claimed 'responsible mining,'" said Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of ATM.

Implementation lacking

The presidential aspirant also criticized the implementation of regulations on the ground.

"If there are violations along the way, dapat ipatupad. Ang problema kasi ‘yung bureaucracy nandyan na ‘yung issue ng corruption. Kapag naglagay or kaya nakiusap at malapit, iyon na ang pagbibigyan in spite of so many violations. Basta isa lang ‘yung standard," Lacson said.

Tapping environmental groups to monitor the implementation of regulations can help solve the problem, he said.

"As long as the Mining Act of 1995 is in place, NGO participation in monitoring is tokenistic," said Leon Dulce, Kalikasan-PNE national coordinator. 

"Government has by and large refused to listen to independent investigations and studies by civil society even if they are given a place in monitoring teams and the like."

Mining donations

Lacson also said he would accept campaign donations from mining firms.

"If the mining company is legal and has a permit, and is following regulations, why not?" he said.

But Lacson said his team would refuse donations from companies with pending legislative franchise applications. 

"Lacson opening his vault to mining money is a social contract with large-scale mines to which he will be beholden when he becomes president. We deserve an uncompromisingly pro-environment president who will not do a Duterte by reversing mining regulations," Dulce said.

Vice President Leni Robredo earlier vowed to declare no-mining zones and scrap the order lifting a nine-year moratorium on new mining agreements if she succeeds Duterte. 

Environmental group Greenpeace said this week that the lack of discussion on environmental issues so far shows "the lack of ambitious plans in candidates’ platforms that would protect Filipinos from worsening climate impacts."

Commenting on the "Jessica Soho Presidential Interviews" aired over the weekend, Greenpeace Philippines country director Lea Guerrero said that "climate and environmental issues were addressed within the frame of disaster response, rather than systemic solutions that would address the problems at root."

"The next president needs to advocate the rights of Filipino communities, including securing a green and just future for the youth," she also said.

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