The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is taking a step in the right direction through its efforts to transform mining into a more responsible and globally competitive industry that upholds environmental laws and mining regulations, minimizes environmental risks and promotes mine safety.
For its part, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines has been laying the groundwork for further improving their environmental, social and governance performance through the Towards Sustainable Mining initiative, the global standard for miners to manage environmental and social risks and adopt best practices in sustainable mining.
These shared goals by the national government and the private sector to produce minerals or metals in the most environmentally and socially responsible way possible, however, will not be attained without the full support of local government units, particularly those whose communities host the mine sites.
Eastern Samar is actually leading the way in making mining corporations abide by the provisions of state-issued mining agreements and comply with pertinent laws and local ordinances on environmental and social protection despite the absence of any regulatory power under the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.
In a recent dialogue with miners, Gov. Ben Evardone ordered a comprehensive review of the performance and compliance of the mining firms operating in historic Homonhon Island off the municipality of Guiuan.
He warned them he would formally ask the DENR to suspend or cancel their Mineral Production Sharing Agreements if an ongoing audit would prove they have violated provisions of their mining accords and pertinent laws on protecting the environment and advancing the welfare of mining workers and the people in their host-villages.
Evardone emphasized to the miners he had the moral obligation as a public servant to make sure their enterprises are in full compliance with the law.
He also asked them what social and community development programs they have thus far carried out or plan to implement from hereon in their respective concession areas.
Among those present at the governor’s dialogue with the mining operators were officials of Hinatuan Mining Corp., which has a mining concession in nearby Manicani Island, also in Guiuan.
Evardone pointed out although Hinatuan has yet to operate anew in Manicani, it has been complying fully with its obligations to both the national government and the Eastern Samar provincial and municipal governments.
Eastern Samar is fortunate that Evardone’s steadfast commitment to responsible mining plus environmental and social protection has the full backing of the heads of the concerned agencies in the region.
Provincial officials have noted that, like the governor, these regional executives—DENR-Region VIII executive director Lormelyn Estrada Claudio, MGB regional director Glenn Marcelo Noble and EMB regional director Wilson Trajeco—have all been pushing the miners to comply with all the relevant laws on mining, environmental protection and social welfare of mining workers and the residents of the host-communities.
During the dialogue with miners, Evardone publicly thanked Noble for ensuring the presence of the top executives of the mining companies in that meeting.
Evardone hoped the meeting would clear the way to a better working relationship among the Office of the Governor, Guiuan Mayor Annaliza Gonzales-Kwan, DENR-MGB and DENR-EMB officials and the mining companies.
Evardone and the MGB regional director told the miners to follow Hinatuan’s example in using the template of the Bureau of Local Government Finance in submitting their accurate sworn declaration—for tax assessment purposes—on all equipment and machineries they actually have in their mine sites.
Evardone said he prefers “responsible mining,” which “strictly observes all mining, environmental and social protection laws.” If the mining companies cannot comply with all of these, he said, DENR should stop their operations.
Two kinds of taxes are levied on miners. One is the excise tax on the production and sale of extracted minerals, which is collected by the Bureau of Internal Revenue; and the Real Property Tax, which is supposed to be collected by the LGUs.
Evardone wants to collect the tax arrears from all the miners because, he said, “the due share of local governments is a big help to realize development projects, such as road concreting, water supply, and school buildings.”
Through his intercession, the province will receive, hopefully by next year, its share of excise taxes that can be used for various economic and social development projects that would benefit Estehanons and uplift their quality of life in the years ahead.