08 August 2011

Anti-Mining Bill Gains Support

Philippine Mining
Environmentalist and anti-mining advocates may have added powerful supporters to their cause when two Cabinet officials publicly acknowledged their support to a measure that seeks to declare the province of Romblon as a no mining zone. Authored by Rep. Eleandro Jesus Madrona, House Bill 4815 was approved recently on second reading during the plenary session.

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje and Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo said they will strictly implement such a ban if it is made into a law.

Madrona's proposal imposes a punishment of six-to-12 years imprisonment and a fine of PhP 100,000 to PhP 500,000. Not really enough and can easily be paid by mining companies that earn millions, but it is an improvement from the 1995 version.

Paje reportedly said that "we will not sign any mining permit in the province of Romblon" while Robredo said he was bringing in police forces to help enforce the mining ban."

Provincial board member Felix Ylagan called on the municipal mayors to also make a commitment to stop mining in their areas.

Ylagan together with environment advocate and ABS-CBN Foundation chairperson Gina Lopez, mayors and environmental groups sought an audience with Paje to present the long list of resolutions and ordinances by the local governments of Romblon to oppose small- and large-scale mining on the island.

The Mining Act of 1995 requires a mining company to present its programs and plans to concerned local government units to secure certificates that would lead to the approval of a license to operate.

Madrona pointed out mining would destroy agricultural lands and the tourism potential of the province. He suggested that instead of allowing mining in Romblon, the government should build more farm and tourism facilities.

"We don't want miners to destroy the natural beauty of the province, which is fast becoming a tourist destination," he said.

Robredo said he would instruct the provincial police office to strictly implement the ban in cooperation with the local government units.

Robredo, however, wanted a careful planning of alternative livelihood for the 500 families dependent on small-scale mining operations in Magdiwang town in Sibuyan Island.

According to Odiongan town councilor Dominador Bantang, the people of Romblon scored three points with the early passage of Madrona’s bill and gaining the support of Paje and Robredo.

Msgr. Ernie Fetalino, chairman of Romblon Ecumenical Forum Against Mining (REFAM), an anti-mining advocacy group, lauded the local officials for their uncompromising stand against mining.