The House committee on natural resources chaired by Rep. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate (Party-list, Bayan Muna) has approved proposals to declare North Cotabato and Cagayan de Oro City as mining-free zones and to declare as closed to mining applications those areas in the country which have been declared by local government units (LGUs) as no-mining zones.
Zarate is author of House Bill 1618, seeking to declare as closed to mining application those areas declared by local government units (LGUs) as no-mining zones, amending for the purpose Republic Act 7942, also known as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.
Zarate said being an extractive industry, mining poses great threats to the fragile environment. He said LGUs must be given the right to chart the destiny of their environment. “This bill seeks to do that by including among the areas closed for mining applications those places which have been declared by LGUs as no-mining zones,” Zarate said.
He cited the LGUs in the provinces of Davao, Capiz, Marinduque, Palawan, Romblon, Negros Occidental, Eastern Samar, and South Cotabato have passed ordinances declaring a ban on mining operations or have issued a moratorium on mining applications.
“By supporting our LGUs through a law that will uphold their power to regulate mining, just like what then Davao City Mayor now President Rodrigo Duterte and the city council did in declaring Davao City a mining-free zone, LGUs all over the country will be more empowered and responsible to their constituents,” said Zarate.
Zarate stressed that the LGUs’ role should be recognized in the protection and preservation of the country’s environment and natural resources as a legacy for the present and future generations. “With this, the people will participate more in the decision-making processes of the State,” he said.
Meanwhile, another proposal approved by the committee is HB 2852, authored by Rep. Jose “Pingping” I. Tejada (3rdDistrict, North Cotabato), which seeks to declare North Cotabato a mining-free zone and provides penalties for the violation of the Act.
“Mining and other extractive industries are among the most destructive activities on the planet, especially for indigenous and farming communities. The minerals, metals, fuel and timber that mining companies seek are very profitable and resisting them from the injurious utilization and degradation of the environment is a huge undertaking,” Tejada said.
Tejada said North Cotabato is rich in natural resources, and has a highly diverse culture and strategic trading site in Central Mindanao. Moreover, the province’s economy relies on farm production activities and agribusiness that it substantially depends on the topography and geological features of the land.
North Cotabato is also considered as Mindanao’s food basket because it is a major producer of cereals, tropical fruits, vegetables, sugarcane, coconut, coffee, freshwater fish and livestock. It is also one of the country’s leading producers of raw and semi-processed rubber and industrial trees, with markets in Asia and Europe.
Tejada said North Cotabato’s major assets are Mt.Apo and the Pulangi River which is a major source of Mindanao’s irrigation system and hydro-electric energy. Furthermore, the Liguasan Marsh is considered a possible source of natural gas and supplies a lot of freshwater fish and organic fertilizer.
In July 2004, Tejada said the provincial government passed Ordinance 325 or the Environment Code of the Province of North Cotabato as an expression of the collective will of the people for the protection of the environment and natural resources for the benefit of the future generation of Cotabateños. Explicity stated in said ordinance is the prohibition of open-pit mining as a means of extracting metallic and non-metallic deposits from the earth.
“An environment vulnerable to the effects of mining can no longer support and sustain life existing in it. The catastrophic effects of mining are the conditions that our children and future generations will have to endure – a deadly inheritance abridging the right to life, livelihood, health and security,” Tejada said.
Meanwhile, the committee approved with an amendment HB 4799 which is authored by Rep. Maximo B. Rodriguez Jr. (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro City). “Mining has adverse effects both to humans and the environment. Aside from adding toxic chemicals to the ore, it strips-off large areas of top soil of flora and fauna,” said Rodriguez.
The amendment provides that gravel, sand and other non-metallic minerals will be excluded from the coverage of the proposed law.
Rodriguez said Cagayan de Oro City has suffered from flash floods, and mining operations in Barangays Dansolihon, Mambuaya, Taglimao, Tapangi, Tuburan and Tumpago have been blamed for the calamity.
He said flashfloods destroyed not just properties but also agricultural areas and farm-to-market roads. Citing the progress reports of the Region 10 Disaster Coordinating Council (RDCC), which is based in their city, he said for the month of January 2009, the flashfloods affected many persons and families. The flashfloods also damaged 141 houses and partially damaged 1,410 properties, costing about P1.9 million as of January 8, 2009 only.
Meanwhile, a total of 37,086 persons or 7,410 families were affected with 94 houses totally damaged and 71 partially damaged on the January 11, 2009 floods that befell Cagayan de Oro City.
“To prevent flashfloods from recurring, mining operations in Cagayan de Oro City must be totally prohibited. Hence, I urge for the passage of House Bill 4799 which seeks to declare the City of Cagayan de Oro a mining-free zone,” Rodriguez added.
The committee decided to continue its deliberations on bills about mineral processing: HB 2165, providing for the mandatory domestic processing of all mineral ores, amending for the purpose R.A.7942, authored by Rep. Erlpe John “Ping” M. Amante (2nd District, Agusan del Norte); HB 2915,promoting the development of minerals processing and in the process banning the export of iron, nickel, chromite, manganese, black sand and other strategic metallic ores, authored by Rep. Stephen S. Paduano (Party-list, ABANG LINGKOD); and HB 3229, promoting the development of minerals processing and in the process banning the export of unprocessed mineral ores, authored by Rep. Francisco Jose “Bingo” F. Matugas II (1st District, Surigao del Norte). / ICY JR