Acosta: Review small-scale mining, no to blanket mining ban

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/27 Apr) – Former Bukidnon congressman Neric Acosta, who has been reported to be the next environment secretary, said the landslide in Pantukan, Compostela Valley is an eye-opener for a review on the small-scale mining operations in the country and has proposed a suspension of mining in critical areas like Diwalwal, Monkayo, Compostela Valley.

Acosta told MindaNews what happened in Pantukan will likely happen in other areas so mining must be stopped “until the areas are cordoned well and the residents are safely relocated.”

The site in Sitio Panganason-B, Barangay Kingking in Pantukan, Compostela Valley where a landslide occurred Friday has been closed to human occupancy after the local government ordered Sunday the forced relocation within 48 hours of the 112 families living in the area.

Thirteen people died while 11 others are still missing as a result of the landslide.

Acosta gave the keynote speech in place of President Benigno Aquino III during the Bukidnon Watershed and River Basin Forum at Bukidnon State University today.

He said there must be a change in paradigm in looking at the environment, stressing that there must be a balance between the economy and the ecology.

“But the economy is a subset of the ecology. If you destroy the environment, you also destroy the economy,” he added.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo earlier this week called for a moratorium on all mining operations until “an efficient monitoring and control system had been put in place”.

He said the government should address “loopholes” in the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 before allowing both small miners and giant firms to exploit mineral resources.

Acosta said Diwalwal is a particular example of a small scale mining area that should already be stopped after what happened in Pantukan.

“We must be able to put the full power of the state to secure the area and see what the hazards are,” he added.

But Acosta said the concern should be addressed on a case-to-case basis. He said he is against a blanket moratorium on mining in the Philippines because it has serious economic repercussions.

Acosta said it is difficult to be hasty about the situation by opting for a nation-wide ban. The country has at least 22 large scale mining tenements.

He said he has “serious reservations” in pursuing the small scale mining operations, that is why it is important to review the policies.

He admitted that it will create conflict with the local government units, who have authority to issue mining permits.

“It will be a review by LGU. It is a matter of making local government units more responsible about mining in their areas,” he added.

Acosta proposed three-layered bases for review: on governance, environmental and social justice considerations.

He said the first concerns with policing, enforcing, and governance which is the turf of the Department of Interior and Local Government. He said cordoning and relocation is a concern for the DILG.

The next layer of considerations is on the environmental side and is the turf of the DENR, which concerns on whether the operations comply with environmental conservations such as on clean air, watersheds, forest protections, among others.

Acosta also spoke of social justice considerations like the provision of alternative livelihood and welfare of the affected communities. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)