DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/27 February) – An Australian official has offered to share to the Philippine government and local industry players her country’s “sustainable and environment-friendly practices” in the wake of debates triggered by the impending closure of several mining operations nationwide.
In an interview on Monday, Australian senior trade commissioner-Manila Elodie Journet told reporters that it is possible to engage in mining and achieve sustainability at the same time.
“We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with government and industry to share the practices in Australia to achieve sustainable mining and environment-friendly mining. We can collaborate because we do think that it can be done,” she said.
She acknowledged the need to protect the host communities and preserve the environment, which can be done with proper “technology, services, and regulatory requirements.”
“We’ve proven that it can be done and we feel with great technology, services and also regulatory requirement can be put in place to ensure not only protect your communities and environment but also you can create jobs for the community,” she said.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte had repeatedly told mining firms to follow the mining practices of Australia.
Journet said mining practices in Australia have proven “agriculture, mining and environment can co-exist in one area” and they are looking into the possibility of sharing the knowledge with players in Mindanao.
“We, as a country, believe that it is very much important for anyone that’s undertaking mining do some responsibility. It’s very important to protect the environment. We agree with the stance that it has to be sustainable, but we think there is a possibility to have both mining and sustainability together,” she added.
The trade official admitted that the stricter position of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on mining has cast some doubts on Australian investors “whether there is opportunity for international players, sustainable players to come in to the Philippines.”
DENR Secretary Regina Lopez has ordered the closure of 23 mining companies across the country and canceled 75 existing mineral production sharing agreements that are located within watersheds.
Mining companies have contested her decision saying it did not observe due process, a claim that the secretary refuted.
The powerful Commission on Appointments will tackle Lopez’s appointment on March 1.
Lopez’s order shutting down mining companies that allegedly violated the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 has gained support from environment groups.
But some people who depend on mining for their livelihood have also taken to the streets to protest her decision.
Lopez said developing the ecotourism industry instead of mining will bring in more jobs and income for host communities. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)