COTABATO CITY―The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is endorsing a code for responsible mining to guide the incoming Bangsamoro ARMM administration on the exploration of the region’s natural resources.
ARMM Executive Secretary Laisa Alamia described the proposed mining code as one that is “even better than the existing Philippine Mining Act (Republic Act 7942).”
Department of Environment and Natural Resources-ARMM Secretary Hadji Kahal Kedtag raised this during ceremonies at the Gawad Kalikasan 2018 on Tuesday, even as he cited the region’s gains in terms of forest cover which has gained six percent increase, he said.
The DENR-ARMM also awarded 48 organizations and individuals for their role in the protection and preservation of the environment for a balanced ecology.
Alamia, a lawyer, said such a collective commitment to help protect the environment is best expressed by the Supreme Court, no less, in Oposa vs. Factoran, a landmark decision recognizing the doctrine of “Intergenerational Responsibility on the environment in the Philippine legal system.”
Among the awardees were the local government units of Parang, Datu Blah, Sinsuat, Datu Odin Sinsuat, North and South Upi, Maguindanao, Lamitan and Isabela in Basilan, Lanao Sur, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
Also cited were civil society organizations from North Upi and Parang, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Sulu, Lanao Sur, Fr. Eliseo Mercado Jr. OMI, local news organizations and personalities.
Kedtag said “precise geo-mapping, tagging and monitoring” reveals the region’s forest cover has increased to 53,000 hectares in the last quarter of 2015 from 50,000 hectares in about the same period in 2011.
Kedtag said the massive greening program in the region, for which the ARMM government has initially provided P1 million in local funds for seedling nursery development in Basilan, Lanao Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, had played a major role in the increase.
Kedtag said Maguindanao alone has produced one million seedlings since 2011, many of which have been planted in three watershed areas in Dimapatoy, South Upi and Kabulnan.
He said also substantially reforested were Lanao del Sur’s areas, including a portion of the watershed in Lake Lanao, Basilan’s Biotic Area, and the Sulu and Tawi-Tawi Watersheds.
Kedtag said the mandatory reforestation program of the DENR-ARMM also covers a portion of the Biotic Area Watershed in Lamitan, Basilan which is supposed to be under the operational jurisdiction of the national government.
The ARMM will be replaced by the BARMM, following a plebiscite on the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL or RA 11054) in January.
BOL provides for the extensive revenue-sharing schemes on exploration of natural resources and mineral recovery programs within the region’s territory.
“The end is near,” Kedtag said in apparent reference to the BOL which will abolish ARMM line agencies, except for the Departments of Education, Health and Social Welfare and Development.
But Kedtag said the proposed code will better guide the Bangsamoro government as well as the community on responsible exploration of natural resources and recovery of strategic minerals as well as fossils gas deposits within its territory.
“We will engage appointees to the BARMM Parliament (during the transition period) to consider this measure for more responsible, more protective exploration of natural resources, as well as strategic and natural minerals,” Kedtag said.
Alamia said concessions on mining operations for nickel recovery in Languyan, Tawi-Tawi had been prior granted by the national government under the same national law.
“When I joined the ARMM in 2012, I thought that there was no mining operation in the ARMM; but there is mining in Tawi-Tawi,” she said.
Kedtag and Alamia credited Fr. Mercado, one of the awardees, and a think-tank group for helping draft the proposed code which ARMM officials intend to recommend to officials of the incoming BARMM.