Decision on lifting of open-pit mine ban up

Even if the inter-agency Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) is already set to release today (Tuesday) the results of the study seeking to prove or counter the legality of open-pit mine ban in the country, it may still take awhile before Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu could actually decide whether he will lift it or not.

Cimatu, in an interview yesterday, said the MICC may already decide today whether or not it will lift the ban on open-pit mine, which was put in place seven months ago or just a few weeks before the powerful Commission on Appointments rejected the appointment of Regina Paz Lopez as the country’s environment secretary.

According to him, it will be the technical working group (TWG) of the MICC, which he co-chairs with

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez  III, that will present today the particular study on the issue.

Ahead of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) meeting today,  Dominguez said yesterday that there is no law banning open-pit mines.

“I have to see what the recommendation is from the TWG and we’ll certainly consider their ideas. You know in the first place, people don’t know that open pit mining is not against the law,” Dominguez told reporters in a recent interview.

But Dominguez pointed out that what is really important is how the miners follow their operations with the rehabilitation of the site. “People have to follow the law on the rehabilitation, that is why the law requires certain amount of money to be set aside for the rehabilitation,” Dominguez said. “I’m not saying [the ban] there is no legal basis, but it is not prohibited.”

When asked about the chances that Lopez’s order be reversed, Dominguez responded “we will see what the TWG has to say.”

Earlier, Finance Undersecretary Bayani H. Agabin said the ban on open-pit mine was up for review this week after its proponents, led by Lopez, presented their case before TWG of the MICC.

Agabin said the MICC will convene to discuss whether the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) controversial order should be kept or not.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, that will present today the study on this particular issue.

This was confirmed by Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin in a separate interview.

But when asked if the result favors the lifting of the said ban, Bayani only said he is yet to find out the “inclination of the body” but he expects “a healthy discussion during the meeting.”

Cimatu, on the other hand, said he will “inhibit” from attending the meeting and implied that even if the result is already out and say the TWG will recommend the ban to be lifted, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will not instantly make a decision on it.

“The decision is either a yes or no and second is how to implement it. [Once we get the results from the MICC] we will be making study especially on the conditions and provisions, because it can’t be imposed just like that,” Cimatu told reporters on the sidelines of the ongoing 12th Conference of Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS-COP12) in Pasay.

“The President directed me [to look into open-pit mining oeprations in the country]. He’s very emphatic on the effect of the open pit mining and the companies must talk to the communities to find out and help them,” he added.

Agabin already said before that at the end of the day, it will still be up to Cimatu whether to lift the ban or not.

To recall, it was Cimatu himself who has brought the issues surrounding the administrative order banning companies to extract minerals through the open pit method to the MICC table.

This, even if he has the power to abolish the order himself since it was imposed by his predecessor Lopez.



Source: Manila Bulletin

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