Bill declaring Marinduque mining-free gains in House

By Charissa Luci-Atienza

The House of Representatives has approved on second reading a bill seeking to declare the province of Marinduque as a mining-free zone.

House Bill 9019, principally authored by Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco, bans all forms of mining, whether large-scale or small-scale, within the province.

“As citizens of the Philippines, we have the inter-generational responsibility to preserve and protect the environment that is capable of sustaining life. The right carries with it the correlative duty to refrain from impairing the environment,” Velasco said.

He rued that the Marcopper mining disaster 1996 left irreparable damage to the people and province of Marinduque.

“The effects of the incident were so devastating that a United Nations (UN) assessment mission declared it to be a major environmental disaster,” the chairman of the House Committee on Energy said.

Co-authors of the bill include Velasco’s sister, MATA partylist Rep. Tricia Nicole Velasco-Catera and Cebu City Rep. Rodrigo Abellanosa.

HB 9019 covers all mining activities, including quarrying.

Under the measure, all valid existing contracts, exploration permits, licenses, technical agreements, and mineral production sharing agreements in accordance with the Mining Act of 1995 will remain valid until their expiration or termination.

Thereafter, no further extension or renewal will be granted.

Upon the effectivity of the proposed act, no exploration permits or application for extension will be granted even during the lifetime of existing mining contracts, technical and financial assistance agreements and mineral production sharing agreements.

In case of failure to undertake any exploration activity or mining operation within two years from the effectivity of the act, the exploration permit or mineral agreement will be declared dormant by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Dormant permits or agreement shall ipso facto be cancelled upon declaration of dormancy.

HB 9019 also mandates that all small-scale mining contracts as enunciated in RA 7076 in the province are cancelled upon the effectivity of the Act.

Affected small-scale mining contractors have one year from the time the law takes effect to undertake the rehabilitation, regeneration, and reforestation of mineralized areas, slope stabilization of mined-out and tailing-covered areas, watershed development and water preservation.

Moreover, the existing quarry permit issued by the provincial government at the time of the effectivity of the Act shall be recognized. Thereafter, quarry permits issued by the provincial governor shall be regularly reviewed and monitored by the DENR.

Violators face imprisonment of 6 to 12 years and a fine of from P1 million to P10 million.

Any public officer who violates the proposed act will be dismissed from the service and perpetually disqualified from holding public office.

If the violator is a juridical entity, the highest ranking official and the members of its board of directors or trustees who authorized the violations shall suffer the penalty imposed in the Act.

The bill tasks the DENR to formulate the necessary rules and regulations for the effective implementation of the proposed Act.