Cancel ‘Stay Order’ on mines with pending suspension, closure orders – ATM

Published April 15, 2021, 6:00 AM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

The Office of the President (OP) was urged to cancel the ‘stay order’ issued on mining companies with pending suspension and closure orders. This as such move will not do anything for the Philippine economy.

“We demand that the Office of the President immediately cancels this ‘Stay Order’ of mine operations and that President [Rodrigo] Duterte urgently confirm and enforce the suspension and closure orders issued by Gina Lopez,” Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) said.

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ATM issued the statement in reaction to Business Bulletin’s report that the Philippine government has already allowed the mining companies that were suspended and ordered closed by former Environment Secretary and late Regina Paz Lopez in 2017 to continue operating.

It was Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Director Wilfredo Moncano who said that such a move was made possible through the issuance of a “Stay Order”.  

This, since the OP is yet to officially lift the suspension and cancellation orders imposed on them by Lopez.

For its part, ATM said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Department of Finance (DOF), which supposedly issued a memorandum to OP containing the appeals of mining companies on these orders, have just disregarded the basis of Lopez’s suspension and closure orders.

“Whether we look at the short-term in the past three years or from a longer perspective of more than two decades, mining has never been a significant contributor to GDP [gross domestic product, taxes or employment,” ATM said.

“The Mine Audit Reports from 2016 to 2017 clearly illustrate that these mining projects violated environmental laws or failed to comply with their own contractual obligations,” it added.

As of July year, the DENR was still reviewing the suspension and closure orders issued to Aam-Phil Natural Resources Exploration, Krominco Inc., Wellex Mining Corp. 1 and 2., Mt. Sinai Exploration and Development Corp., Claver Mineral Development Corp., Oriental Synergy Mining Corp., Ore Asia Mining and Development Corp., and Libjo Mining Corp.

Moncano didn’t specify who among these companies were given a ‘Stay Order’ but he noted that the companies who were suspended and closed before Lopez’s orders were issued have maintained their status. 

ATM also said that allowing the resumption of these mine operations will increase the risks and vulnerabilities of affected-communities.

“As we confront the impacts of climate change and this pandemic, more environmental destruction from mining is the last thing that our rural poor and forest-dependent communities need,” it further said.

Meanwhile, Rocky Dimaculangan, vice president for corporate communications at Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), an organization of some of the country’s largest mining operations, said that the OP must already resolve the appeals of the aforementioned mining firms.  

“The DENR has resolved the cases of those that appealed directly to them; it would be good if the OP would do the same soon,” he added. 

Dimaculangan said the government must also address soon “two problematic policies” that have stifled the country’s mineral developments.

COMP, he said, is still urging the government to lift the moratorium on new mineral agreements imposed under Executive Order (EO) 79 as well as the ban on open-pit mining method by repealing DENR Department Order 2017-10.  

“Responsible mining, when allowed to flourish, could substantially contribute to economic recovery — particularly in increasing government revenue, job generation, and poverty alleviation that are most needed in this time of pandemic and, equally important, in the recovery efforts after Covid-19,” Dimaculangan said.

Based on earlier estimates, pending big-ticket mining projects could help the mining sector bring in additional government revenues by P13 billion a year.  

Right now, the mining industry contributes only 0.85 percent to the country’s total GDP.