DENR challenge: Address concerns, share info, reason with oppositors

In his speech before the Mining Philippines Conference held at Marriott Hotel in Pasay City, Manila last August 24, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary and Concurrent Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Director Mario Luis J. Jacinto challenged leaders of the private mining companies to "squarely address legitimate concerns, provide proper information to have a shared perspective of development options, and patiently reason with oppositors to set aside unreasonable demands."

Jacinto welcomed the opportunity to meet the responsible miners of the country and to reiterate President Rodrigo Roa Duterte's marching orders for the mining industry to ensure responsible mining, adopt the best internationally accepted practices, and maximize the benefit for the people and the communities in all possible ways.

"For a country like the Philippines which has an estimated 1.3 trillion dollars of mineral reserves and a fragile island ecosystem, conflicting land uses and priorities will have to be resolved taking into consideration the best use possible, for its land and resources to benefit its people," Jacinto said.

Jacinto emphasized that the utilization of these God-given resources should only be allowed when the proposed mining operation is technically feasible, environmentally compliant, socially acceptable, and financially viable. "Any of these imperatives absent, it is not the time to mine," Jacinto added.

In his dialogue with community relations practitioners, it was agreed that the private sector will work together with government in achieving their common objectives on responsible mining and community development.

Towards this end, Jacinto expressed hope that mining companies will always provide the support needed by dedicated community relations practitioners to ensure the success of these undertakings.

On the current audit of mining operations being implemented pursuant to DENR Secretary Gina Lopez' Memorandum Order No. 2016-01, Jacinto said that the responsible mining firms have nothing to fear. This, in fact, may be considered a blessing in disguise for responsible miners who have religiously followed, and are compliant with mining and environmental laws, rules and regulations.

To be able to achieve the President's marching orders, Jacinto said the following should be done:

o Necessarily, MGB personnel must serve with the highest degree of competence, honesty and dedication. We will be unforgiving to those who commit irregularities and corrupt practices;

o At every level of governance, responsibility and accountability must be clear. We will pursue MGB's mandate for the conservation, development and proper use of the country's mineral resource;

o The continuing assessment of the socio-economic and environmental impact of mining activities will be undertaken;

o Pro-active measures to prevent unintended consequences of mining will be instituted;

o Proper policies on how the country can best position itself in the world minerals market will be thoroughly studied, and the best options will be proposed for adoption. We must know what we have, where it goes and how it benefits the people, the communities and the country;

o Information sharing with the industry stakeholders will be pursued at every opportunity. Geological maps and reports, geo-hazard maps and studies, and watershed maps already available will be provided to and analyzed together with industry partners to have a common appreciation of the areas with potential for development, and identify the elements at risk in the different areas.

In the end, Jacinto is optimistic that, despite the many challenges the industry is facing, it can also be an industry that has a lot to contribute for meaningful development.

"With professionals and companies committed to do things right and make responsible mining a way of life, the mining industry will continue to be a potent force in the total effort for nation-building," Jacinto said

Source: Philippine Information Agency

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