Climate and Environment

DENR engaging with various stakeholders on mining concerns

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
DENR engaging with various stakeholders on mining concerns
This photo taken on February 25, 2017 shows an aerial shot of the mining site in Loreto town in Dinagat island.
AFP/Erwin Mascarinas

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines — The country’s environment chief on Thursday said her agency is engaging with different stakeholders — including those in the mining sector and communities — to balance the need for minerals with environmental, social and economic considerations.

Revitalizing the mining sector — even though the industry only accounts for less than one percent of the country’s gross domestic product — is a priority of the Marcos administration.

However, environmental groups and host communities have pointed out that the extraction of minerals is driving deforestation and the climate crisis, as it also threatens water sources and displaces people.

“We’re here to listen and until we can be satisfied that we’ve heard all stakeholders, we cannot achieve a balance in terms of the approach,” DENR Secretary Toni Yulo-Loyzaga told reporters. The environment department is currently holding a multi-stakeholder forum in Cagayan de Oro to gather insights on ecotourism, agriculture, forest and land management, climate and disaster resilience and mining.

“Geographically and socially, [things are] different. So these complexities need to be addressed in whatever approach that we will take moving forward,” she added.

Alyansa Tigil Mina national coordinator Jaybee Garganera told Philstar.com that it is “not a fair call when the DENR secretary will listen to all sides when a mining operation is clearly violating environmental and local autonomy laws.” He cited mining issues in Sibuyan Island in Romblon, Brooke’s Point in Palawan, and Tampakan in South Cotabato.

“Affected communities have been waiting for DENR Secretary Yulo-Loyzaga to listen to their side, and unfortunately, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau has failed to properly enforce environmental laws,” Garganera said.

Mining in Sibuyan

Yulo-Loyzaga said the DENR “will take a good look” at the issue of mining on Sibuyan Island.

Sibuyanons urged the agency to suspend the mining operations of Altai Philippines Mining Corporation (APMC) on the island, saying the extraction of nickel ore will disrupt the area’s intact ecosystems and the livelihood of locals.

Dubbed the "Galápagos of Asia," Sibuyan Island is home to unique flora and fauna.

Residents put up a barricade in front of the pier being constructed by APMC to prevent trucks transporting nickel ore from leaving the island.

“We are aghast that the police were helping the truck that was transporting nickel ore. We explained to the police that we are protesting the illegal operations of APMC since they do not have the necessary permits for their activities. Why then is the police taking the side of the mining company?” said Elizabeth Ibañez, coordinator of Sibuyanons Against Mining.

Review of mining laws

Yulo-Loyzaga stressed the DENR is adapting a “mitigation hierarchy” although the approach is still not fully fleshed out.

The mitigation hierarchy framework comprises a sequence of steps to avoid the impacts of mining and, where avoidance is not possible, to reduce the effects of extraction activities. The approach also includes rehabilitation of sites no longer used by a project, before offsetting residual impacts.

“[This approach] will definitely entail the consideration of the environment enhancement program that each of the mining companies need to undertake, the progressive rehabilitation program that they are going to propose, and the short-term mine planning model that they are mandated to put into consideration,” she said.

The environment chief added the agency will review the People’s Small-scale Mining Act of 1991 and the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 “within the lens of clean water, clean air, solid waste management, climate change, and [disaster risk reduction and management].”

The Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center said the government needs a new mining law on the management of minerals required for the shift to renewable energy, and that measure should make social and environmental justice a priority.

The Philippines is the fifth most mineral-rich country in the world, producing minerals used in clean energy technologies such as chromium, cobalt, copper, nickel and silver.

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