Harmonization of national, local laws a priority - Paje
MANILA, Philippines - The harmonization of local mining ordinances and national laws is being prioritized by the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC), according to Environment Secretary Ramon Paje.
This is amid the ongoing tension in South Cotabato where a local ordinance banning open-pit mining has delayed the commencement of the $5.9-billion copper-gold project of Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI), the local partner of Swiss giant Xstrata.
The local edict is the reason why the Department of Environment and Natural Resources rejected SMI's application for an environmental compliance certificate (ECC). SMI is contesting the ordinance for its inconsistency with the Philippine Mining Act.
“In the last meeting of the MICC where the Tampakan copper project appeared to present its case firm, statements were issued by the MICC on the actions to be taken to address the issue,” Paje said in a speech delivered on his behalf by Mines and Geosciences Bureau Director Leo Jasareno during the recently concluded 59th Annual National Mine Safety and Environment Conference.
SMI, which moved the target commercial operations of the Tampakan project to 2016, appealed DENR's decision on its ECC with Malacañang.
President Benigno Aquino III said last month that he prefers to wait for the passage of mining taxation reforms before rendering a decision on SMI's petition.
Section 12 of EO 79
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines earlier urged the government to immediately enforce the harmonization of local ordinances and national mining laws as provided for by Section 12 of the new mining policy to avoid confusion.
Section 12 of Executive Order 79, one of the more contentious provisions in the order, directs the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to ensure that local ordinances are aligned with national laws.
“The DILG and the LGUs are hereby directed to ensure that the exercise of the latter’s powers and functions is consistent with and conform to the regulations, decisions, and policies already promulgated and taken by the national government relating to the conservation, management, development, and proper utilization of the state’s mineral resources, particularly RA 7942 and its implementing rules and regulations, while recognizing the need for social acceptance of proposed mining projects and activities,” Section 12 of the EO states.
In his prepared speech, Paje also disclosed that the government is investigating reported illegal mining activities in the country.
He said the Department of Justice (DOJ), DILG and DENR have ssued a joint order for the creation of a fact-finding committee on illegal mining.
“We are not blinking on our drive against illegal mining in the country. With the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation on board, we expect this committee to become a formidable force in the drive against illegal mining,” his speech read.
Jasareno said the committee held its first meeting on November 19 and it was presided by DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima and Paje.
Government data showed that gold sales to the central bank plunged 95% in the first half of 2012 to 786 kilograms from 15,003 kilograms last year. The DENR said the decrease indicates that gold outputs are going to the black market. - Rappler.com