Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez has called for a review of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, which opened the country’s mining sector to 100 percent foreign ownership.
During the Mindanao Environment Summit on Thursday, Lopez described the mining law as “treasonous and should not have been passed at all,” and said that it must be reviewed.
Lopez added that the mining law allowed “foreign companies to take the country’s minerals away almost for free.”
“It’s time for all of us to demand that this treasonous law be repealed and replaced with a [law] that would be in the interest of the Filipino people,” she said.
Lopez’s statement comes after the comments of Joel Tabora, a Jesuit priest and the president of the Ateneo de Davao University.
“In my view, the 1995 mining act is treasonous because our Constitution says that the minerals belong to the state, which means they belong to the people,” Tabora said.
Lopez said that her commitment to Mindanao is social justice.
“The definition of social justice is that the resources of Mindanao must necessarily be enjoyed by the people of Mindanao,” she added.
Meanwhile, Lopez called for the shutdown of Claver Minerals Development Corp. in Surigao del Norte for environmental law violations.
Three other mining companies Taganito Mining Corp, Greenstone Resources, and Saggitarius Mines are under environmental audit.
Taganito is involved in nickel mining, while Greenstone processes gold, and Sagittarius focuses on gold and copper mining.
Results are expected to be submitted to the DENR office within a week, Lopez said.
“It’s not only the technical [aspect] that is being audited, but also [the] social aspect, its effects on the water, health and the environment,” Lopez said, adding that audit results will serve as the agency’s basis on whether they would allow the companies to continue operating.
The DENR secretary will also look into mining operation that threatened two protected areas in Davao Oriental province, which includes Mt. Hamiguitan’s pygmy forest.
“A mine in between two protected areas? That’s crazy,” she said.