EO on mining not clear on sustainable development–LegardaBy Kate Evangelista
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Loren Legarda on Tuesday expressed her discontent with the Executive Order number 79 on mining recently signed by President Benigno Aquino III.
“The new EO does not answer all mining issues; it shines some light on gray areas like the precedence of national laws above local ordinances, the socio economic and environmental basis for declaring ‘no-go’ mining zones,” Legarda said in a text statement.
Legarda said to be effective, the EO should clarify further with guidelines and procedures regarding recognition of existing contracts.
She added that there is a need for congressional amendments on the existing laws on mining to address the unfair revenue sharing between mining companies and the government, the protection of communities near mining site and non-compliance of mining companies with existing laws, procedures and regulations.
“We must pass legislation to provide clear direction and rules to ensure that the mining industry will indeed contribute to the sustainable development of the country,” Legarda said.
Nevertheless, the environmentalist senator said she will “support a policy move that ensures fair, responsible and sustainable development of the country’s mineral resources.”
“No doubt our abundant mineral resources belong absolutely to the state and therefor to the people,” she added but said that despite the abundance of mineral resources in the country, the government receives “a peanut share” of royalties from mining companies.
“It is time that we vigorously pursue mining agreements that truly reflect the absolute nature of state ownership over our precious natural resources,” she said.
Legarda added that the mining industry should be strictly regulated in light of the tragedies caused by irresponsible mining acts. The senator, who is a staunch environmentalist, added that the vulnerability of nearby communities to disaster and climate change risks should also be considered when mapping out areas for mining.
“Current and future mining projects and operations must not spawn new risk or worsen people’s vulnerability, rather they should ensure risk and poverty reduction and resilience to disasters,” Legarda said.
Allies of the Aquino administration and some environmentalist groups lauded EO 79, signed by Aquino Friday last week, which will increase the government’s share from mining operations by imposing a moratorium on granting of new permits pending legislation. EO 79 likewise bans mining operations in 78 eco-tourism sites and also curbs the small-scale mining sector.
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