DENR: Review of mining rules underway

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DENR: Review of mining rules underway
This photo taken on February 25, 2017 shows an aerial shot of the mining site of Cagdianao Mining Corporation (CMC) in Cagdianao town in Dinagat island.
AFP / Erwin Mascarinas

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said on Tuesday it has been conducting a comprehensive review of laws and policies governing the mining sector to address risks associated with extractive activities.

The DENR said it welcomes the calls of Sen. Risa Hontiveros to conduct an investigation into the environmental and social impacts of mining and quarrying, and to address the shortcomings in policies related to extraction of natural resources. 

“The DENR accedes to the government’s support for responsible mining in the context of sustainable development with due consideration for the ecological, social and economic integrity of the host and neighboring communities,” the agency said. 

According to the agency, its thorough examination includes how legislations and regulations on mining “intersect with environmental laws” such as the Clean Water, Clean Air, Solid Waste, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Acts, as well as the vulnerabilities and risks involved. 

Hontiveros’ resolution cited the fatal landslide in a gold-mining village in Davao del Sur, the increased flooding risk and water quality concerns on biodiversity-rich Sibuyan Island in Romblon, and the use of dredged materials to support reclamation efforts along Manila Bay, and Chinese island building in the West Philippine Sea. 

The Philippines boasts abundant mineral resources, with nickel reserves ranking fifth and cobalt and copper ranking fourth globally. However, mining contributes less than 1% to the country's gross domestic product.

The government aims to revitalize the mining industry to attract investments and spur economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

It has lifted restrictive mining policies, including the ban on open-pit mining, and increased support for the industry by leading exploration activities to identify where critical minerals can be extracted. 

According to a paper published by the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC) found that 60% of mineral deposits and 49% of mining projects in the Philippines are located in ancestral lands. 

Need for enforcement bureau

The DENR also said it is looking forward to discussing with lawmakers the Environmental Protection and Enforcement Bureau bills, which are pending before both houses of Congress.

The agency has been pushing for a permanent enforcement bureau to effectively enforce cease-and-desist orders and other environment protection orders, as well as prosecute cases on illegal and destructive mining, logging, wildlife trade, poaching, land degradation, and pollution. 

Currently, the enforcement division of the DENR, known as the Environmental Law Enforcement and Protection Service, comprises just one regular staff member and 31 contract of service personnel tasked to enforce laws across 15.8 million hectares of forest lands and 35,000 kilometers of foreshore areas.

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