The interagency Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) has kicked off its “fact-finding and science-based” review of an initial batch of 26 mine sites ordered either suspended or shut down last year by the previous leadership at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) by starting in March on-site visits to these locations.
Undersecretary Bayani Agabin, who represented the Department of Finance (DOF) at the MICC meeting last March 7, said the first phase of the review covering legal, technical and environmental concerns will be completed within a three-month period, while the social and economic aspects of the study will be done in another three months as requested by the technical review teams (TRTs).
“When we were looking at this, we set the period for review for three months. But when the teams were formed, the concern, especially on the economic study, is that they will need the inputs from the technical, the legal and the environment,” Agabin said during the recent MICC meeting.
“If you will notice, the methodology for the social and economic aspects is that they will do a household survey. They were quite strict, the teams that we got. In fact, they didn’t want to continue on if there will not be an honest-to-goodness scientific survey done within the affected communities. That’s how meticulous they are,” Agabin added.
According to Dr. Marian de los Angeles, the overall coordinator of the TRTs, the experts comprising the teams are now in the field and commencing their review of the 26 mine sites.
De Los Angeles said the second phase of the review focusing on the social and economic aspects will include a “social cost benefit analysis” and an “evaluation of the changes in the ecosystem” as well as a “more in-detail look into the equity aspects” of the mining operations.
Agabin earlier said 25 experts will comprise the five TRTs tasked to conduct the review of these 26 mining operations.
The MICC is co-chaired by DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu and DOF Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.
According to DOF Assistant Secretary Teresa Habitan, the MICC has tapped the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) to implement and manage the “fact-finding and science-based” review process on the 26 mining operations.
Assistant Secretary Mercedita Sombilla of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) had said the review should come up with recommendations on mining-related methodologies and procedures to maximize the benefits of mining and avoid damages; the list of inefficiencies/violations/ damages done by mining companies that are difficult to address by the DENR alone; and the appropriate penalties that have to be imposed for such inefficiencies/violations/ damages done.
The TRTs are also expected to recommend measures that need to be instituted to avoid the recurrence of such inefficiencies/violations/ damages, and to improve mining operations with a view to effectively safeguard the environment and protect the rights of resource-dependent communities, Sombilla said.
She said a list of provisions in any laws, rules and regulations that need to be revised or amended to improve mining operations and ensure the development of a responsible mining sector, along with a framework, or set of standards and procedures to institutionalize the conduct of review for the remaining existing operating mines should also be covered by the study to be done by the TRTs.
“The final report will be a consolidated one. We will not see individual reports for each of the mines. It’s going to be consolidated. It’s going to be general — the key results that will come out of the 26 mining sites,” Sombilla said.
Agabin said the clustering of the mines for review was based on the types of minerals and locations, which are as follows: TRT Team 1 for gold, copper and nickel mines in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), Cagayan Valley (Region II) and Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan (Region IV-B); TRT 2 for iron and nickel mines in Central Luzon (Region III); TRT 3 for chromite, nickel and iron mines in Eastern Visayas (Region VIII) and CARAGA; TRTs 4 and 5 for nickel and chromite mines in CARAGA.
As proposed by Dominguez during the MICC meeting last Oct. 24, the Council agreed to conduct another review in 2019 and succeeding ones every two years thereafter, in keeping with the MICC mandate under Executive Order No. 79 on a review of all mining operations once every two years.