EO on mining gains support; Capitol yet to draft ordinance-A A +A
Monday, July 16, 2012
THE Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) 7 has expressed support for the executive order (EO) regulating, monitoring and implementing reforms in mining operations in the country.
In a press statement, MGB 7 Director Loreto B. Alburo said this presidential directive sets the direction on how mining investors should conduct themselves.
The EO 79 issued last week aims to institutionalize and implement reforms in the mining sector by providing policies and guidelines to ensure environmental protection and responsible mining.
EO 79, or the implementation of reforms in the Philippine Mining Sector, also sets the areas where mining is prohibited.
The Cebu City ordinance on mining pertains to the process of getting a mining permit and the fees involved.
Areas that are not open to mining, according to EO 79 are: areas established under the National Integrated Protected Areas, prime agricultural lands, tourism development areas and critical areas like island ecosystems.
According to the local ordinance, permit application for mining of a certain area will be assessed by the Office of the Mayor, which heads the City Mining and Regulatory Board and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
But section 13i states, “No extraction, removal and/or disposition of materials shall be allowed within a distance of one kilometer from the boundaries of reservoirs established for public water supply, archeological and historical sites or of any public or private works or structures, unless the prior clearance or the concerned government agency or owner is obtained.”
“No extraction or removal and/or likewise be allowed in offshore areas within five hundred meters from the coast and two hundred meters from the mean low tide level along the beach.”
Both the EO and the local ordinance adhere to environmental protection.
Another provision under the EO is on the opening of areas for mining.
New areas for mining will be subjected to a competitive public bidding.
The EO also wants a one-stop shop implemented for all mining applications. The one-stop shop will be an inter-agency organization.
Under the existing ordinance, all applications will be under the Office of the Mayor.
The EO, though, will not be effective until after its publication in newspapers of general circulation. It was signed by the President last July 6.
In Central Visayas, there are nine operating mines and quarries with a total area covered of 10,039.8923 hectares. Of the nine, six are in Cebu and one each for Negros Oriental, Siquijor and Bohol.
Alburo said the important concerns are on promoting responsible mining, providing a more equitable revenue-sharing scheme and coordination among stakeholders including local government units.
He said the review of the performance of existing mining operations to be led by a multi-stakeholder team helps ensure strict environmental conservation.
Dr. Eddie Llamedo, MGB 7 information officer, said the agency has to wait for the legislated revenue or sharing agreements to come out.
“In the meantime, let’s see what the IRR (Implementing Rules and Regulations) of the EO would have to say on this (issue),” he said.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources will coordinate with the Mining
Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) in formulating the IRR in the next 60 days.
The MICC is tasked to assess and review all mining-related laws, rules and regulations, issuances and agreements toward the formulation of recommendations.
Meanwhile, Cebu Province is yet to draft its own mining ordinance. But if there’s conflict now, the national law should prevail over local ordinances, said a Cebu lawmaker.
The staff of PB Member Thadeo Ouano said they are now drafting a mining ordinance.
Ouano is the chairman of the committee on environment.
Capitol has a Revenue Code of Cebu, which imposes taxes on large-scale mining permit holders.
Rep. Benhur Salimbangon (Cebu, fourth district) said that in case of conflict, the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 or Republic Act 7942, prevails over a local mining ordinance if it is passed.
As of now, lawmakers are trying to reconcile the two and give priority to local laws if they don’t go against national laws.
For example, Bantayan Island, which has 150,000 inhabitants, is still classified by national land agencies as wilderness where no persons are allowed to occupy.
Malapascua Island, in Daanbantayan town is classified as timberland.
“So I am going to file a bill converting these two islands into alienable and disposable areas,” said Salimbangon. He said he already has the support of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.
He said the government is losing revenues from uncollected taxes in these areas since technically all residents there are considered squatters.
Mining firms are not exempted from taxes in Cebu.
In March 2010, three mining companies in Cebu petitioned the court and questioned Capitol for imposing mining taxes on them based on the Revenue Code of Cebu.
The mining firms said the Province lacked the legal authority to impose regulatory fees or any form of mining taxes on large-scale mining permit holders.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 16, 2012.