PLACARD-BEARING students from the University of the Philippines trooped to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Quezon City Monday to seek full disclosure of its mining audit that led to the closure and suspension of 28 big mining companies.
The students, members of the UP Mining Engineering Society (UP Miners) called on Environment Secretary Gina Lopez to lift her order to shut down 23 mining companies and suspend five others, saying this would mean unemployment for new graduates of mining engineering, geology, metallurgical engineering and other affected fields.
“We, the University of the Philippines Mining Engineering Society, reiterate our stance and advocacies toward responsible mining and call for transparency in the process of the mining audit done by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources,” the group said in a statement.
“For as long as the transparency of the mining audit remains inaccessible, as future engineers, we shall keep invoking our right to access detailed information regarding the said mining audit in order for us to know what needs to be improved in the industry and to aid in the advancement of the profession towards environmental protection so as to avoid the suspension of more mining companies compromising jobs and Filipino families.”
Krist Jan Separa, a graduating UP mining student, said DENR’s closure and suspension orders could mean the loss of employment opportunities for future miners.
“As students of the University of the Philippines, we uphold honor, excellence, and the values of responsible mining. We thus challenge the government to do the same,” UP Miners said.
The UP students challenged the credibility of the agency’s audit, led by Undersecretary Leo Jasareno, former Mines and Geosciences Bureau director, noting that even mine sites with an international ISO-14001 certification acquired after over almost a year of audit did not pass with the DENR audit team, which included non-experts and anti-mining advocates.
Some students from the Adamson University, and members of the Coalition of Mine Workers, Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co. and Benguet Corp. joined the rally.
Danilo Calimlim, 63, a mining worker for Benguet Corp. and president of the Mine Workers League, said he cannot stand to see fellow miners suffer social injustice.
“We are supervised by mining engineers in our operations. We are bona fide residents near the mine sites. Why would we allow irresponsible mining? The mining audit team Lopez tasked to audit was composed of anti-mining advocates. She should allow us to be represented to strike a balance,” he said.
About P10.1 billion in taxes was generated from the mining industry in 2015.
The mining operations ordered closed down or suspended account for 46 percent or P4.6 billion of these tax revenues, according to the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines.
The chamber said Monday it would file its opposition against Lopez’s appointment as Environment secretary.
The group said its opposition to her confirmation is based on her recent actions and pronouncements, which showed “undeniable bias against and antagonism towards large-scale mining, rendering her unfit and incapable of a responsible, fair, just and balanced implementation of the Constitution, the Philippine Mining Act and related laws and regulations, and of upholding personal interest and advocacies over public interest.”
“In the pursuit of her agenda to discredit and marginalize the mining industry, Lopez has shortcut legal and administrative processes, disregarded vested rights and even ignored the sanctity of contracts between the government and its mining contractors,” the chamber added.
President Rodrigo Duterte reappointed Lopez as DENR secretary after she was bypassed by the Commission on Appointments.
The chamber said, however, that Lopez does not have the administrative experience and competence to lead the DENR.
The chamber on Monday assured President Duterte that they will fully rehabilitate mined out areas.
“We assure the President that CoMP members in CARAGA and nationwide are committed to rehabilitate mined out areas to comply with existing laws,” said chamber chairman Artemio Disini.
“These areas will be converted into lands productive for the communities even long after the mines are gone,” Disini said.
Years before closure, mining companies set up a Final Mine Rehabilitation Decomissioning Fund deposited in government accredited banks to be used in the mine’s rehabilitation as determined by studies and approved by the DENR, local government units and all the affected communities and stakeholders, the chamber said.
Two weeks ago, Lopez announced that out of the 41 operating metallic mines in the country, 23 were up for closure, five will be suspended and only 12 passed the mining audit.