MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Philippine governor stops mining project in Oriental Mindoro Invokes provincial ordinance banning mining for 25 years

Published by MAC on 2008-11-10
Source: Robert A. Evora, Manila Bulletin

CALAPAN CITY - Oriental Mindoro Gov. Arnan C. Panaligan has stopped the operation of the Mindoro nickel and cobalt project in this province, invoking the 25-year mining ban which has been in effect since 2002.

"The scoping activity that you were conducting on Oct. 20, 2008 is clearly a violation of our provincial ordinance because the environmental impact study or EIS is being done in furtherance and/or preparatory to mining operation," Panaligan told Project Manager Jake G. Foronda, project manager of the Alag-ag Mining Inc., local partner of the Norwegian-based Intex Resources Philippines Inc.

The activity is in direct violation of the province's 25-year mining moratorium ordinance, which explicitly prohibits "any person or business entity to engage in land clearing, prospecting, exploration, drilling, excavation, mining, and transport of mineral ores in furtherance of and/or preparatory to all forms of mining operations for a period of 25 years," Panaligan stated in a letter sent to Foronda.

The governor warned Foronda that he would "be constrained to use whatever legal means available to enforce the mentioned provincial ordinance (Provincial Ordinance No. 001-002) even to the extent of causing your arrest and all those involved in the activity and the filing of the corresponding case in court."

Still unchallenged legally, Provincial Ordinance No. 001-002, which calls for a 25-year mining moratorium in Oriental Mindoro, was enacted by the sangguniang panlalawigan pursuant to Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991, which empowers local government units to enact laws to protect the environment and mineral resources.

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Lito L. Atienza said, however, that the 25-year anti-mining ordinance of Oriental Mindoro is "not only illegal, but also unconstitutional."

Atienza cited a legal opinion of the Department of Justice that the "freedom to exercise contrary views does not mean that local governments may actually enact ordinances that go against laws duly enacted by Congress, such as R.A. 7942."

Earlier, Governor Panaligan said that the provincial government is duly prepared to face in a court of law anybody who may want to challenge the legality or wisdom of the 25-year mining ban passed by the Oriental Mindoro sangguniang panlalawigan.

When asked about his view on the legal opinion cited by Secretary Atienza, lawyer Joel J. Jabal said that "an opinion is just that, a mere opinion. It has no legal value, unless challenged and affirmed by a competent court after a valid trial. Every Juan, Pepe, and Kadyo could issue a legal opinion."

Mayor Alex M. Aranas, former president of the League of Municipalities of Oriental Mindoro and staunch advocate of responsible mining, said that he welcomes the Mindoro nickel project provided that the "mining operation is safe and that the environment of Oriental Mindoro is well protected."

Aranas is the mayor of Pola town, which is one of the four probable sites for a multi-billion-peso nickel and cobal processing plant.

The mayor said that his municipality, if finally chosen as the site of the Intex processing plant, would give employment to some 3,000 Pola residents.

The mayor assumed that the municipality of Pola would get a regular share of (140 million in real property tax if the (400-million nickel processing plant is built in his town, and the barangay where it would be constructed (Kadima) would get a share of (100 million.

Aside from the processing plant, which may entail a cost of from (400 million to (800 million, the mining company would also set up a 0-million pier, which could further boost the economic development to Pola, Mayor Aranas said.

He said that the Mindoro nickel project is a "much-awaited economic boost, not only for Pola, but also for the whole Oriental Mindoro."

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