Backing President Rodrigo Duterte on his all-out war against irresponsible mining, Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III today said the crackdown should start with Mt. Diwalwal in Monkayo town, Compostela province.
He asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to probe the mining site "because the mercury being illegally scattered in Diwalwal has already reached the other water systems in Mindanao like the Agusan River."
Some 18,000 artisanal miners in Diwalwal and other mining sites in Compostela are using mercury to separate gold particles from rocks almost every day, a very dangerous process that leads to highly toxic exposure and health risks.
Pimentel asked DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu not to waste time but to quickly translate the President's stern warning against abusive gold miners into concrete actions to stop the destructive extraction of minerals in the country.
He said the Philippines is a signatory to a United Nation's international treaty, banning the use of mercury in gold extraction, but gold miners in Compostela have refused to ditch their old methods.
"Mercury and other deadly chemicals are poisoning not only residents of Compostela Valley but also nearby areas," said Pimentel, adding the DENR should stop the use of the banned metal to spare the lives of the people in Mindanao.
Pimentel said he also backed the President's position to stop the extraction and exportation of mineral resources to other countries for processing abroad and importing them back to the Philippines as consumer goods at higher prices.
He said mining companies should heed the President's invitation for them to establish manufacturing processing plants in the country so that the raw materials are transformed into finished products with higher sale values.
Pimentel also asked the DENR to monitor the full compliance of mining firms in the quick clean-up, restoration and rehabilitation of all areas damaged by mining operations, especially in areas close to watersheds and forests.
He said failure of these companies to heed the President's directive should prompt the DENR to impose the heaviest penalties to protect the people living near mining sites and the environment.
Pimentel said the Senate would include in its priority agenda proposed amendments to the mining law to ensure the sustainable use of land and the protection and preservation of natural resources.
A bill filed in Congress seeks to amend the Mining Act of 1995 which environmental advocates claimed as an "unfair law" that was skewed toward the mining sector and not the people.
Source: Senate of the Philippines