By Charissa Luci-Atienza
The House Committee on Natural Resources has approved measures seeking to declare Palawan, Biliran, and Cotabato as mining-free zones.
The House panel, chaired by Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga passed House Bills 1158, 1230 and 3119, principally authored by Palawan Rep. Gil Acosta, Biliran Rep. Gerardo Espina Jr. and Cotabato Rep. Jose “Ping-Ping” Tejada.
Acosta sought the final passage of his House Bill 1158, which seeks to declare the province of Palawan as a mining-free zone, to protect Palawan and its people against the adverse effects of mining.
“Mining in Palawan is said to have destroyed forests and caused siltation of water resources. While mining provides job opportunities for some the degree of damage to the earth, on the livelihood of farmers and Palaweños’ general well-being has become exceptionally alarming,” he said.
HB 1158 prohibits all forms of mining operations and activities within Palawan’s territorial jurisdiction.
Violators of the proposed Act shall be slapped with six to 12 years of imprisonment and a fine ranging from P1 million to P10 million. Any public officer who violates the proposed Act shall be dismissed from service and perpetually disqualified from holding public office, the bill said.
Espina also cited the need for Congress to expeditiously act on House Bill 1230, citing that mining has adverse effects to both humans and the environment.
He said his province is composed of two major volcanic islands and that Biliran’s topography is enough evidence that mining will be destructive to the province.
“To prevent flash floods from recurring, mining operations must be totally prohibited,” Espina said.
For his part, Tejada expressed hope that his bill would be given due consideration by both houses of Congress.
He noted that during the 17th Congress, it was approved by the House of Representatives on third and final reading and was transmitted to the Senate, which failed to pass it due to lack of material time.
“The catastrophic effects of mining are the conditions that our children and future generations will have to endure—a deadly inheritance abridging the right to life, livelihood, health and security,” Tejada said.
“We are the world that we live in, and the people of the province of Cotabato choose to live free of mining,” he pointed out.
Espina’s HB 1230 and Tejada’s HB 3119 have the same penalty provisions with that of Acosta’s HB 1158.
The three bills task the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to formulate the implementing rules and regulations of the proposed Acts.