BUTUAN CITY -- Representatives from different groups and organizations in the Caraga Region welcomed the result of the mining audit by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) that announced the recommendation for suspension of 15 mining firms operating in the region.
Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, together with Undersecretary Leo Jasareno, in an announcement Tuesday, September 27 said 20 mining firms are set to be suspended.
Fifteen of the 20 identified firms have operations in the Caraga Region in the provinces of Agusan del Norte, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Dinagat Island.
Eight firms of the 15 from Caraga Region are operating in the island province of Dinagat, namely: Libjo Mining Corporation, AAM-Phil Natural Resources, Exploration and Development Corporation, Krominco Incorporated, Sinosteel Philippines HY Mining Corporation, Oriental Synergy Mining Corporation, Wellex Mining Corporation, Century Peak Corporation and Oriental Vision Mining Philippines Corporation.
Three more of those named by DENR are operating in Surigao del Sur: Marcventures Mining and Development Corporation (MMDC), Carrascal Nickel Corporation, and CTP Construction and Mining Corporation.
Two were named in Surigao del Norte: Hinatuan Mining Corporation and Adnama Mining Resources Incorporated.
Agata Mining Ventures Incorporated and SR Metals Incorporated, both operating in Agusan del Norte were also named.
Dinagat Representative Arlene Bag-ao, meanwhile, lauded the responsiveness of the DENR under the leadership of Lopez saying, the strict enforcement of our environmental laws is a must.
“It is time to finally make and implement a renewed framework on the coexistence of mining, livelihood, people’s participation and conservation. I am confident that the DENR will be at the forefront of this fight. We in Dinagat islands will be right beside them,” Bag-ao added.
Bag-ao pointed out that at present, there are 19 mining companies operating in different parts of Dinagat Island.
“Either there will be an permanent closure or better implementation of environmental protection. If you look closely on this mining operating in the island, mining did not actually generate jobs for the people, only less than 20 percent on the total workforce in the mining industry are from Dinagat, and 80 percent earn their income from farming and fishing or employed in government services. We are looking towards environmental conservation and eco-tourism to create more jobs for our communities but this has to start in the grassroots level,” she said.
Reverend Pio Mercado, spokesperson of the environmental group Caraga Watch likewise lauded the DENR recommendation to suspend the mining firms.
“We commend Secretary Lopez’s leadership and laud the DENR firm recommendation to suspend errant mining companies in Caraga Region, this is a welcome development in the whole environmental protection movement, other companies that who to be monitored should be audited randomly without prior notice,” Mercado said.
Mercado, however, said future audits should include the participation of private and independent technical non-government organization and Civil Society Organization.
Perennial violators should also be permanently closed as these companies has repeatedly violated laws and are bound to violate again, said Mercado.
Emma Hotchkiss, president CCMCL Baywatch Foundation, a local coalition of different environmental and civic-society groups in the towns of Cantilan, Carrascal, Madrid, Carmen, and Lanuza pointed out the need for the closure of mining firms.
“This is MMDC’s second suspension within two years for environmental laws violations, thus the cancellation of their MPSA which is expiring on 2018 should be considered. This is not entirely their fault but also the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) altogether for not citing and reporting their violations as they occurred.
MMDC’s Mineral Production Sharing Agreement was located in the Carac-an Watershed Forest Reserves consisting of four river systems and one waterfall system that will be utilized as a mini-hydro plant. The other river system is our source of water used for irrigation and household purposes,” Hotchkiss said.
Hotchkiss said officials of the DENR, MGB and EMB in the region who allow violations of environmental laws should also be held accountable.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 28, 2016.