Court rules against Antipolo mining ban

Published December 5, 2021, 12:05 AM

by Dr. Jun Ynares


Dr. Jun Ynares

Three weeks ago, Branch 97 of the Regional Trial Court (Fourth Judicial Region) ruled against a move by the local government of Antipolo to ban all mining, quarrying and related activities within the jurisdiction of the city.

In its decision, the court ruled that the ordinance passed by the Antipolo City Council and implemented by the Office of the City Mayor, the city’s Business Permits and Licensing Office, and the Philippine National Police, stopping all said operations were “unconstitutional” and therefore “null and void.”

The Antipolo City government, while saddened by this development, expressed its highest respect for the wisdom of the court and that it is set to implement its ruling on the issue.

Technically, by virtue of the court ruling, the ban on mining, quarrying and related activities within the jurisdiction of the city no longer exists. Entities involved in these activities can resume their operations.

The court has settled a recent major row which called public attention to the question of how much power local governments wield over mining, quarrying and related activities taking place within their jurisdictions.

It will be recalled that the Antipolo City local government took a bold step to ban all the said activities in a bid to preserve what is left of mother nature, and to fuel the discussion on the apparent absence of say on the part of local governments on how their natural resources are tapped and used.

Antipolo City’s local officials saw the urgency of the ban after torrential rains once again submerged several portions of the national capital region and Rizal province in deep floods.

Certain quarters blamed the floods on the decimation of the forest cover in the mountains in Antipolo City and Rizal province. They alleged that waters coming from these mountains and down into Marikina River caused the heavy flooding. The decimation of the forest cover, in turn, may have been aggravated by the mining, quarrying and related activities going on in these mountain areas.

Antipolo City had warned the entities involved in these operations that the local government may shut them down in response to the clamor to preserve whatever is left of mother nature in those areas. It eventually passed the ordinance banning all said operations.

Some national government agencies, in turn, warned Antipolo City that it had no power to shut down these operations. They pointed out that the permits for these operations were granted by said agencies and therefore are beyond the authority of the city to revoke.

Antipolo City – as well as the Rizal provincial government – was also warned that shutting down these operations could cause a shortage of the requirements for aggregates and building materials in the National Capital Region. They pointed out that the city and the province were the sources of these materials closest to the metropolis. If the entities providing these materials coming from the mountains of Rizal and Antipolo were to cease operations, builders in Metro Manila may have to source their requirement from more distant provinces thereby causing spikes in construction costs.

It appeared that the risk of potential revenue losses was major enough for the affected private enterprises to go Court and sue the City of Antipolo for not renewing their business permits in line with the ordinance banning their operations.

They pointed out, among others, that the city government’s ordinance “contravenes statutes and public policy pronounced by the national government,” that it was “an unreasonable exercise of police power” on the part of the city government, and that the Ordinance went beyond regulation to prohibition.

The Court tackled the issue on the basis of “constitutionality.” Citing legal precedents, the Court pointed out that the city government “are mere agents vested with what is called power of subordinate legislation.” “As delegates of the Congress, the local government cannot contravene but must obey at all times the will of their principal,” the Court said.

The court underscored that the Antipolo City ordinance was “ultra vires” – beyond the scope of its powers. It ruled that the said ordinance “failed to meet the substantive requirements” which include not contravening the constitution and not prohibiting but merely regulating trade.

The court explained that the permits given by the national government to the entities which sued the city “are solemn contracts between the State and the petitioners” and that they are “warranted under the constitution and the Mining Act” passed by the national legislature. It emphasized the it is the State which is the “true owner” of the mineral resources tapped and mined by the petitioners.

The court concluded that the Antipolo City ordinance banning mining, quarrying and related activities is unconstitutional and therefore “null and void.”

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