President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III has issued a new executive order aimed to strengthen the enforcement of environmental laws on mining.
Under the EO, the government has six months to develop "a national program and road-map, based on the Philippine Development Plan and a National Industrialization Plan, for the development of value-adding activities and downstream industries for strategic metallic ores."
In the Executive Order No.79 released by Malacanang on Monday, the Department of Environment and National Resources "shall ensure that environmental standards in mining, as prescribed by the various mining and environmental laws, rules, and regulations, shall be fully and strictly enforced, and appropriate sanctions meted out against violators thereof."
The order also identifies areas where mining will not be allowed such as areas under the National Tourism Development Plan, critical areas and island eco-systems, as well as agricultural and fisheries development zones.
According to a briefer from the office of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., no new permits will be granted for mining in Palawan.
"The ecological uniqueness of Palawan’s flora and fauna and the need to protect the same is recognized," the Office of the Executive Secretary said.
Although existing mining operations will be allowed to continue, Congress must pass a law "rationalizing existing revenue sharing schemes and mechanisms" before any new mining agreement is granted, the EO said.
"The DENR may continue to grant and issue Exploration Permits under existing laws, rules, and guidelines. The grantees of such permits shall have the rights under the said laws, rules, and guidelines over the approved exploration area," the EO said.
Grantees of the permits will also have the first option to develop the site as soon as Congress passes a law for revenue sharing.
Bayan: EO is a victory for mining firms
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan's secretary general Renato Reyes said the new EO will not be of much help in the quest for a better mining policy.
"Mining in the service of national industrialization does not seem to be a priority for the government. There is also the token mention of strict enforcement of environmental standards," he said in a press statement.
He added the EO weakens local governments by directing the Department of the Interior and Local Government to make sure LGUs follow national policies. Several local governments, including South Cotabato, have enacted local environment codes that prohibit open-pit mining despite national policy allowing it.
"This is a victory for the big mining firms, but it’s a dud as far as the people are concerned. We call on all affected parties to vigorously resist this EO," Reyes said.