De Lima seeks probe into Duterte gov’t move to lift ban on open-pit mining


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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima calls for a Senate inquiry into the recent decision of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to lift the ban on open-pit mining in the country.

De Lima filed the Proposed Senate Resolution urging the appropriate Senate Committee to review the said decision and explore other avenues for generating wealth without compromising people’s safety and damaging the environment.

“There is a need to conduct a thorough review of this policy decision as this can potentially open up the country once more to irresponsible mining practices which could further compromise the environment and pose health and safety risks to people and their communities,” she said.

“It behooves our government to exert all efforts to explore other avenues before resorting to possibly catastrophic means of generating wealth for our country at the cost of sustainability and the welfare of present and future Filipinos,” she added.

Last Dec. 23, 2021, DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu signed Department Administrative Order No. 2021-40, lifting the four-year-old ban on open-pit mining instituted by his predecessor.

While the government considered the move as their attempt to revitalize the country’s economy, environmental groups have criticized the decision as a “shortsighted and misplaced development priority of the government.”

Open-pit mining, where material is excavated from an open pit, is said to be the type of mining that is “particularly damaging to the environment because strategic minerals are often only available in small concentrations, which increases the amount of ore needed to be mined.”

De Lima noted that the risks to human life and adverse environmental impacts of unregulated open-pit mining are well-documented, citing, among others, the 1996 Marcopper mining disaster in the province of Marinduque.

More than two decades after the Marcopper incident, De Lima recalled that there had been at least five more mining disasters in the country.

“It is evident from the numerous mining disasters that have occurred in the country that we have still yet to figure out how to consistently extract our mineral resources in a safe and efficient manner and reduce or altogether prevent such accidents from occurring,” she said.

When gains and risks are placed on a scale, De Lima pointed out that the State must always err on the side of caution.

“In this case most especially, when open-pit mining has been time and again proven to virtually eliminate any biologic life at the surface of earth, the State must first ask whether it would be prudent to think of only short-term benefits even when confronted with proof that open-pit mining results in the stripping of vegetation which leaves the surface of every dig site completely barren,” she said.

“It must also first be determined whether policies on replanting and restoring the ecosystem have been put in place before lifting the moratorium given that open-pit mining sites take decades to recover,” she added.

The lady Senator from Bicol likewise underscored the need for an evaluation of DENR’s present regulatory capacity “to ensure that the present safeguards can be implemented and that our regulators will not be overwhelmed by the operations of the mining companies.”

During her stint as Justice Secretary, De Lima created a task force led by the National Bureau of Investigation to lead a crackdown on several illegal black sand mining operators in Cagayan and Ilocos Sur. The move led to the filing of charges against several individuals.

De Lima also filed proposed Senate Bill (SB) No. 1075 seeking to prohibit black sand mining operations in the country which continue to destroy the environment while placing people’s health and livelihood at great peril. (30)

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