Davao Chamber supports DENR Secretary Lopez

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/06 March) – Local business leaders expressed support for the confirmation of Environment Secretary Regina Lopez by the Commission on Appointments amid objections by pro-mining groups and business organizations.

Lopez’s confirmation hearing was scheduled for March 1 but was postponed due to the reorganization in the Senate. No definite schedule was set so far.

In a press conference Monday, Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (DCCCII) president Ronald Go assured Lopez the group will support her if she “continues to be fair in what she does in terms of decision making, in terms of who should do mining in what areas.”

Go said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is “dealing fairly” with industry issues and it’s only doing its job to crack down on mining firms that destroy the environment.

He said the mining firms that have been issued temporary closure orders must imitate the practices of Canada and Australia that follow certain environmental standards in mining operations.

“Basically, they just want to see that the environment is safeguarded and, like I’ve said, if we can have the example of Canada and Australia where mining is a ‘green industry’, where they rehabilitate the mined over areas. I think there’s nothing wrong with that,” he said.

Aboitiz Equity executive vice president Arturo Milan, a trustee of DCCCII, said that the government is not against mining but only wants to ensure that no operations would lead to the further degradation of the environment.

“Our government is not against mining but it is for responsible mining. As long as the mining industry continues to protect the environment, there’s no problem with it,” he said.

He said the mining companies must ensure their operations are not destructive to the environment and follow strictly the standards set by the government.

DCCCII member John Tria said he believes the DENR was being fair in its decision since there were mining firms that also passed its mining audit.

“Not all mining companies failed the audit, there were some who did. That gives you the government’s position,” he said.

Last month Lopez shut down 23 mining companies and canceled 75 existing mineral production-sharing agreements that were found to be within watersheds.

In a press release on Sunday, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno will set aside P50 million from the government contingency fund to enable the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) to undertake a comprehensive review of mining contracts nationwide.

He said review will start with with those ordered shut down or suspended last month by the DENR.

Dominguez said the MICC, which he co-chairs with Lopez, will request for permanent allocation under the succeeding national budget programs of the government, beginning with the proposed General Appropriations Act of 2018.

“This MICC has never been funded so I think for the 2018 budget, we will propose that we will do that,” Dominguez said in a press briefing after the Council’s March 3 meeting.

Dominguez said it was only proper that the MICC be given a permanent allocation under the national budget given its task under Executive Order No. 79 of reviewing all 311 mining contracts in the country once every two years.

For this year, the MICC last Friday approved the guidelines on the conduct of an “objective, fact-finding, science-based” review of mining operations nationwide, initially covering those ordered closed or suspended by the DENR.

The MICC also decided in its Friday meeting to complete the review to be conducted by five interdisciplinary technical review teams within three months, with primary focus on the technical, legal, social, environmental and economic aspects of the affected mining operations. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)