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COMP stands by responsible miners, challenges impartiality of audit
February 2, 2017
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines decried the announcement made by the DENR Secretary that she wants to close 21 mines and suspend an additional 5 operations.
“Mining companies were invited by government to invest in the Philippines and signed contracts with them as partners in mineral resource development. By entering into these contracts, government is bound to observe due process. Sec. Lopez cannot just shut down mines without due process,” Artemio Disini, chairman of the Chamber of Mines, said.
The Chamber stands by its members in the face of the pronouncement of DENR Secretary Gina Lopez suspending the operations of 5 mines and the closure of 21 mining projects. The Chamber also questioned the way by which the DENR mine audit was conducted, highlighting the inclusion of anti-mining activists that tainted the process.
“We are not against a strict implementation of the law. In fact, we have often called for stricter monitoring of all mining operations in the country. What we question is the bias and partiality of the audit from the very start with Secretary Lopez’s early statements that she does not like mining and would like to see mines closed,” Nelia Halcon, COMP executive vice president, said.
“With the inclusion of anti-mining groups in the audit teams, you can see that the audit was compromised. The participation of these anti-mining activists immediately raises the question of whether or not the results are impartial,” she added.
The Chamber also laments how the audit review findings were first made known through a press conference.
“If the audit found violations, the law provides for a procedure. She should have filed the appropriate cases or invoked the arbitration clause of the mining agreements. Our members have not received any formal decision but have already been subjected to trial by publicity.
“Unfortunately, it seems that her decision to close these mines was based merely on a quick fly-by over Surigao del Sur last week in a chopper during the height of the rainy season. It may not have been based on the review conducted by the Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau. Reports reaching us even said MGB personnel were even banned from her press conference,” Halcon said.
Former MGB director Leo Jasareno, earlier dismissed by the Office of the President, was present in the Office of the DENR secretary during the press conference. Further, it has been reported that the review results will not be released by Sec. Lopez saying it was “too complicated.”
Halcon added that despite the snag hit by the minerals sector following the nationwide audit conducted by the DENR last year, mining firms remain committed to delivering on their obligations and are even working beyond the requirement of the laws particularly in the development of human capital and the enhancement of the economic base of provinces hosting mining projects.
“We assure government, stakeholders and the public that our member companies have been working very hard to comply with environmental laws relevant to our industry. Our social development management programs are still in place and so with our environmental enhancement and protection programs,” Halcon said.
According to the COMP exec, member-companies, majority of them now ISO 14001 certified, with several undergoing the accreditation process, have not been remiss on their duties.
“Even as we faced challenges in 2016, we paid our taxes faithfully, contributed to the betterment of our host communities, and did our part in caring for the environment,” Halcon said.
“But the DENR Secretary does not seem to see the mining industry as government’s partner in growing the economy. She sees miners as villains, even when mining companies have always been a consistent partner of their host communities,” she added.
COMP cites the proliferation of illegal mining operations which bring suffering.
“They do not pay taxes; they do not help in the development of the communities; and are destructive to the environment. It is these illegal operations that must be stopped. Yet it seems Secretary Lopez has turned a blind eye on these,” Halcon ended.
COMP is calling on the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC), co-chaired by the Department of Finance, to convene and review the policies and arbitrary actions of Secretary Lopez. Her drastic action of publicly announcing the closure and suspension 28 mining operations without due process will have detrimental and far-reaching impacts on the economy, the mining industry, and the country.
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