IRR now allows open-pit mine

Published May 20, 2021, 4:00 PM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

Executive Order No. 130

The  government has formally repealed the ban on open-pit mining method in the country, at least based on draft implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Executive Order (EO) 130. 

Based on the draft of the three-page IRR, the government repealed, amended, and modified several department orders of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued in the past to pave way for the implementation of EO 130, which lifted the national moratorium on new mining projects.

This covers Sections 23-A of DAO No. 2010-21, which covers the conversion of an exploration permit to mineral agreements; DMO No. 99-32, which is the policy guidelines and standards for mine wastes and mill tailings management; DMO No. 2016-01, which orders the audit of all operating mines and imposes another moratorium on new mining projects signed in 2016 by late and former Environment Regina Paz Lopez; and the whole of DAO No. 2017-10, or the ban on open-pit mining.

 During the second part of the consultation meeting on the draft IRR of EO 130, which was held on Thursday, representatives of non-government organizations (NGO) and the academe raised some social concerns against the guidelines of EO 130.

One of the biggest concerns of the stakeholders was Section 7 of the IRR, which provides the provision on the engagement of local government and communities.

Under this section, no mining project shall proceed without the issuance of the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC), and that the engagement of local government units (LGUs) and communities should be ensured in all the processes only under the Philippine Environmental Impact Assessment (EIS) System.

For instance, during the question-and-answer portion of the consultation meeting, Green Thumb Coalition convener and Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) National Coordinator Jaybee Garganera asked MGB why the engagement with LGUs and communities has been reduced to the drafting of the EIS report.

Leon Dulce, the National Coordinator for Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, likewise asked MGB how to ensure social acceptability amid this provision.  

As a response, MGB Director Wilfredo Moncano said in compliance with Ease of Doing Business Law and to expedite the mining application process, the national government proposes that ECC is sufficient if, during public consultation, no objection was expressed on the part of the LGUs.

He likewise noted that the decision of the LGUs and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to endorse a mining project is beyond MGB’s control.

“For the social acceptability requirement, as part of the application process, we require endorsements from Sangguniang Bayan, Sangguniang Panlalawigan, the LGUs, among others,” Moncano said.

“If there is certification, then that is already compliance [of social acceptability]. We don’t have controls on how the IPs (Indigenous People] and the Sanggunians undertake the evaluation of the projects,” he added.  

However, a certain Chito Trillanes pointed out that ease in doing business should not be

construed to derail community consultation processes.

“For instance, in public scoping of mining applications, virtual meetings have been done due to the pandemic. This has caused sidelining the sentiments of affected communities in view of poor internet connection or even lack of it,” Trillanes commented in the chatbox of the virtual consultation. 

“Ease of doing business must be strictly understood to mean easing of administrative procedures but not on substantial rights like the right to be consulted on projects that are environmentally critical and affects their lives and livelihood. The new EO 130 does not guarantee this,” he added.

Mining companies were the first to be consulted during the first part of the consultation meeting, which was held on Wednesday.