Mining activities in watershed ok, says DENR exec

BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/9 Aug) – The top official of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in the Caraga Region has said that mining activities in watershed areas are allowed but “with restrictions.”

Undersecretary Marlo D. Mendoza, also the newly-designated regional director for Caraga, said mining activities in watershed areas are allowed by law, but with buffer zones as its “limiting zone.”

“It is allowed because we have zoning, like the buffer zone and the multiple use zone,” Mendoza said at the sidelines of the 21st Mindanao Business Conference last week when sought to comment on a petition filed by a Surigaonon citizen to revoke an endorsement issued by the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) on the proposed People’s Small-Scale Mining Area in Surigao City’s main watershed area.

Mendoza explained that there is “a science in it,” adding that the PAMB in effect has its own separate functions and powers to endorse a project. PAMB, he noted, is multisectoral and is independence as a decision-making body.

He added that the government also cannot be “overly strict” like the log ban, and so the case should be similar in the watershed.

“We allow restricted use in appropriate zones like the buffer zones and multiple use zones,” the official said.

In a document obtained by MindaNews, Surigaonon Joselito Ramirez Jr. filed a petition for DENR-Caraga to revoke a PAMB resolution that endorsed the proposed Minahang Bayan of the Nagkahiusang Gagmay’ng Minero (NAGAMI) because it is “defective, does not conform with the laws and mandates governing protected areas and PAMB, and wholly condones violations of the Small Scale Mining Act (SSMA).”

The petition cited, among others, the power of PAMB in endorsing a Minahang Bayan “which is beyond its mandate,” Ramirez said.

The complaint cited that the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Law of 1992 (Republic Act 7586), particularly Sec. 2 of the Declaration of Policy, specifies that the mandate of the PAMB is primarily for the “conservation of biological diversity.”

Ramirez, who is also the resident curator of the Surigao Heritage Center, said the proposed Minahang Bayan does not show that “it will promote biodiversity or the project is compatible, non-destructive as provided for by the manual of livelihood programs for protected areas.”

“The project will remove earth, permanently alter the ecology, affect plants, remove minerals, disturb slopes, cause erosion, destroy aquifers adjacent to the protected area, our watershed,” he stressed. (Vanessa L. Almeda / MindaNews)