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DENR closure, suspension orders on mining firms illegal - solon

DENR chief Gina Lopez presides at a press briefing. REUTERS FILE means BUSINESS

MANILA, Philippines – The suspension or closure of several mining companies in the country by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez was “highly illegal” and was based only on her “whims and caprices,” a lawmaker said Tuesday.

Surigao del Sur Representative Johnny Pimentel chided Lopez for not heeding the recommendation of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, which made a review of the first audit of the DENR on the operations of mining companies.

“The audit review is highly illegal, hindi pwede iyon,” Pimentel, whose family is involved in mining in the province, said in a hearing.

Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert “Ace” Barbers said the DENR has yet to release the copy of the audit team's report.

“There are no transparent reports yet of the 23 mining companies (closed) and the cancelled MPSA (Mineral production Sharing Agreement).  There was an obvious attempt to keep it secret,” Barbers said.

Last month, Lopez announced the closure of 23 mining operations and suspension of five others for violation of various environmental laws.

Danilo Uykieng, assistant director at the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, said Lopez’s decision was in contrast with the recommendation of the agency, which submitted its findings and recommendations to Secretary Lopez.

“We recommended the status quo retention of the six suspended mining companies, there was one recommended for suspension, six firms recommended for the suspension of the ECC (environmental clearance certificate) for non-compliance of the ISO certificate,” he said.

The MGB also recommended that 17 firms be imposed fines and ordered to implemenet corrective measures.


Amid Lopez's contrary move, Uykieng said, “we defer to the decision of the Secretary.. . . we are only recommendatory.”

Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Carlos Zarate said that despite the closure and suspension orders, several mining companies are still operating, specifically in Benguet, which he recently visited.