Environment Secretary Ramon Paje yesterday said the government will not approve new mining permits until Congress will pass a measure increasing the royalties as part of new rules governing the sector.
The policy is contained in a new executive order signed by President Benigno Aquino III aimed at overhauling policies governing the industry to boost state revenues while putting in place measures to protect the environment, tourism and agriculture, he said.
Errol Gatumbato, vice president and managing director of the Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc., said that somehow, this (EO) is good to give natural ecosystems a rest on resource exploitation.
However, this is only temporary since mining exploration is not covered by the ban, he added.
“Since we don't know when Congress will take up and approve the proposed measure on mining revenue, it is necessary to look into other viable and potential economic options in southern Negros Occidental, like tourism,” he said.
“If we will consider Negros a critical area, given the limited forest cover, highly threatened endemic species and being an island ecosystem, then it should be closed to mining. But this provision of the EO is still vague,” Gatumbato added.
There is also a need to find out if several areas in Negros are included as tourism sites in the national tourism development plan because these areas should also be closed to mining as the EO provides, Gatumbato said.
Edwin Balajadia said the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement- Negros appreciates the effort of the President for a new mining policy to further regulate the industry.
“However, our position is that what we need is not a new EO but the scrapping of Republic Act 7942 or the Mining Law because of its anti-people and anti-environment provisions,” he said.
“We’re pushing for an alternative mining bill that will have strong environmental and social acceptability features as well as resource or revenue sharing that is s fair to both the local and national governments,” he added.*CPG
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