House panel OKs bills on mining-free zones

MANILA -- A House of Representatives panel has approved measures declaring North Cotabato and Cagayan de Oro City as mining-free zones.

The House committee on natural resources chaired by Bayan MunaPartylist Rep. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate approved House Bill Nos. 2852 and 4799, declaring North Cotabato and Cagayan de Oro City, respectively, as mining-free zones to protect local residents and the environment from the adverse effects of mining.

North Cotabato Rep. Jose Tejada, HB 2852 author, said North Cotabato is rich in natural resources, and has a highly diverse culture and strategic trading site in Central Mindanao.

Moreover, the province's economy relies on farm production activities and agribusiness that it substantially depends on the topography and geological features of the land.

It is also one of the country's leading producers of raw and semi-processed rubber and industrial trees, with markets in Asia and Europe.

In July 2004, Tejada said the provincial government passed Ordinance 325 or the Environment Code of the Province of North Cotabato as an expression of the collective will of the people for the protection of the environment and natural resources for the benefit of the future generation of CotabateAos.

The ordinance prohibits open-pit mining as a means of extracting metallic and non-metallic deposits from the earth.

"An environment vulnerable to the effects of mining can no longer support and sustain life existing in it. The catastrophic effects of mining are the conditions that our children and future generations will have to endure -- a deadly inheritance abridging the right to life, livelihood, health and security," Tejada said.

Meanwhile, the committee approved with an amendment HB 4799 which is authored by Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Maximo B. Rodriguez Jr.

The amendment provides that gravel, sand and other non-metallic minerals will be excluded from the coverage of the proposed law.

Rodriguez said Cagayan de Oro City has suffered from flash floods, and mining operations in Barangays Dansolihon, Mambuaya, Taglimao, Tapangi, Tuburan and Tumpago have been blamed for the calamity.

He said flashfloods destroyed not just properties but also agricultural areas and farm-to-market roads.

"To prevent flashfloods from recurring, mining operations in Cagayan de Oro City must be totally prohibited. Hence, I urge for the passage of House Bill 4799 which seeks to declare the City of Cagayan de Oro a mining-free zone," Rodriguez added.

The committee also approved House Bill 1618, seeking to declare as "closed-to-mining applications" those areas in the country which have been declared by local government units (LGUs) as no-mining zones.

Zarate, author of HB 1618, said mining as an extractive industry poses great threats to the environment.

Zarate stressed the need to strengthen the LGUs' role in the protection and preservation of the country's environment and natural resources.

He cited the LGUs in the provinces of Davao, Capiz, Marinduque, Palawan, Romblon, Negros Occidental, Eastern Samar, and South Cotabato have passed ordinances declaring a ban on mining operations or have issued a moratorium on mining applications.

"By supporting our LGUs through a law that will uphold their power to regulate mining, just like what then Davao City Mayor now President Rodrigo Duterte and the city council did in declaring Davao City a mining-free zone, LGUs all over the country will be more empowered and responsible to their constituents," said Zarate. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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