Editorial: Mine, all mine-A A +A
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
ALTHOUGH the President belongs to the Liberal Party, his administration’s policies have not always been classically liberal. His long-awaited executive order on mining is one example.
Executive Order (EO) 79 expands the national government’s regulation of new mining activities and, whether by design or not, delays the entry of more competition. So much for classical liberalism’s preference for limited government and free market enterprise.
A more urgent matter for local communities is that the new EO will undo any protective measures local ordinances have attempted to put in place against the effects of mining.
It orders the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to make sure that all local ordinances match the central government’s position on mining.
Yes, it makes the token noises on “the need for social acceptance of proposed mining projects and activities”, but at the same time limits local governments to setting “reasonable limitations on mining activities.”
Those limits are already addressed by the EO, which adds to the list of areas closed to mining. Under RA 7942 or The Philippine Mining Act of 1995, mining is banned in government reservations, historical sites, and protected areas like watersheds and
The Aquino administration’s EO adds to that list prime agricultural lands, including agrarian reform lands; fish sanctuaries; tourism development areas in the National Tourism Development Plan; and island ecosystems identified by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
It should interest Cebuanos to know that the 78 “no-go zones” listed in the tourism development plan include Bantayan-Malapascua; Mactan and Olango Islands; and an unspecified zone identified only as “Southern Cebu”.
This does not harm existing operations, because contracts and concessions approved before the EO took effect will stay valid. What the order delays is the approval of new mineral agreements, until Congress has passed a law that will revise the sharing scheme, in favor of a larger share for the national government of all mining-related revenues.
Local communities, which bear the harm that mining operations do, are left to make do with a promise that the national government will “study the possibility of increasing local governments’ share” of mining revenues.
In his last State of the Nation Address, President Benigno Aquino III identified mining as one of seven key sectors where government would try to draw investments.
It has taken his administration a year, since then, to define its mining policy more clearly. That policy appears to strip local communities of the power to protect themselves against mining, and at the same time leaves them with nothing but the national government’s scraps.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 11, 2012.