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Extracting natural wealth: boon or bane?

Last Part of 3-Part Series

[The following article is the Second Part of the Series. The series if the product of a 2-month research and study conducted under the Philippine Press Institute – Philippine-Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (PPI-Ph-EITI) Media Fellowship on Digging Stories that Matter.]

By JOENALD MEDINA RAYOS

NO TO COMMERCIAL MINING. During his inauguration as newly-elected chief executive of Batangas, Governor Hermilando I. Mandanas publicly declared that his administration will not allow commercial mining operation in the province. Thus, he said, “However, we will not allow any more power plants using coal as fuel, and we will protect and conserve our natural resources by prohibiting commercial mining.”

The legal framework

Simply stated, mining operation means the extraction or removing of minerals and metals from earth. Mining activities involve exploration, feasibility, development, utilization, and processing. Large scale mining is often undertaken by big companies using many employees and a huge labor force covering a wider area and under the privilege of Mineral Product Sharing Agreement (MPSA).

Open-pit mining is the most common mining technique, when it comes to new mines. Through this technique the soil is completely excavated, and the separation of the minerals and the remaining soil happens completely above ground.

Meanwhile, “quarrying” means the process of extracting, removing and disposing quarry resources found on or underneath the surface of private or public land. To do this, the operator must be armed with a quarry permit or a document granted to a qualified person for the extraction and utilization of quarry resources on public or private lands. In some cases, quarrying in certain degrees amount to small-scale mining,

Quarry resources refers to any common rock or other mineral substances as the Director of Mines and Geosciences Bureau may declare to be quarry resources.

Section 43 of the Republic Act No. 7942 otherwise known as Philippine Mining Act provides that applications for the issuance of quarrying permit may be filed with the Office of the Provincial Governor or a line agency under his direction. Said law also provides that the provincial governor shall grant the permit after the applicant has complied with all the requirements as prescribed by the rules and regulations, including the payment of the required fees.

The applicant for a quarry operation must file a an application with the Provincial Mining and Regulatory Board (PMRB)  headed by the provincial governor with the Provincial Government-Environment and Natural Resources Office (PG-ENRO) chief as head of the secretariat. The application must clearly identify, among others, the company of the applicant, the area identified for the proposed operation, that it has a valid business permit issued by the host town or city, and it has paid the necessary quarry permit and regulation fees.

The same law also provides, however, that the maximum area which a qualified person may hold at any one time shall be five hectares (5 has).

However, in large-scale quarry operations involving cement raw materials, marble, granite, sand and gravel and construction aggregates, a qualified person and the government may enter into a mineral agreement as defined herein.  The applications for permits for those operations covering more than five (5) hectares have to be filed with the Mines and Geo-Sciences Bureau (MGB) of the DENR.

To qualify for such a permit, the applicant must submit the following:

  1. Duly accomplished application form (MGB Form 8-4);
  2. Location map of the proposed permit area showing geographic coordinates and boundaries in relation to major environmental features and other projects using NAMRIA topographic map in scale 1:50,000 duly prepared, signed and sealed by a deputized Geodetic Engineer;
  3. Sketch Plan of the proposed permit area showing geographic coordinates of corners in an appropriate scale duly prepared, signed and sealed by a deputized Geodetic Engineer;
  4. Five-Year Work Program (MGB Form 6-2) duly prepared, signed and sealed by a licensed Mining Engineer;
  5. Certificate of Environmental Management and Community Relations Record;
  6. Environmental Compliance Certificate;
  7. Environmental Protection and Enhancement Program;
  8. Proof of technical competence including among others, curricula vitae and track records in mining operations and environmental management of the technical personnel who shall undertake the activities in accordance with the submitted work program and environmental protection and enhancement program;
  9. Proof of financial capability to undertake activities pursuant to submitted work program and environmental protection and enhancement program, such as the following: a. For individual – Statement of assets and liabilities duly sworn and certified by a CPA, credit lines and income tax return for the preceding three (3) years and b. For corporation, partnership, association or cooperatives – Latest audited financial statement and where applicable, Annual Report for the preceding year, credit lines, bank guarantees and similar negotiable instruments.
  10. Photocopy of Articles of Incorporation/Partnership/Association, By-Laws and Certificate of Registration duly certified by the SEC;
  11. For corporation/partnership/association/cooperative, Secretary’s Certificate on Resolution of the Board of Directors identifying and authorizing their representative to deal, sign, execute and deliver with regards to ISAG permit;
  12. Other supporting papers as the concerned Regional Office/Provincial/City Mining Regulatory Board may require or the applicant may submit. Corp Indiv
  13. Fees: Filing fee – Php 10,000.00 10,000.00* Registration fee of Articles of Inc. – Php 1,000.00 – Registration fee of By-laws – Php 1,000.00 – Application Fee for CEMCRR– Php 5,020.00 5,020.00* Verification Fee – Php 6,000.00 6,000.00 Area Clearance Fee – Php 2,000.00 2,000.00* Registration Fee (Permit) Php 5,000.00 5,000.00

As of this writing, there is no active large-scale mining in the whole province of Batangas. However, there are several explorations permits issued by the DENR-MGB for possible mining activities in the future. An exploration permit grants the right to conduct exploration for all minerals in specified areas. The Bureau shall have the authority to grant an exploration permit to a qualified person. An exploration permit is embodied in the MPSA which is an agreement where the Government grants to the contractor the exclusive right to conduct mining operations within a contract area and shares in the gross output. The contractor shall provide the financing, technology, management and personnel necessary for the implementation of this agreement.

As of June 15, 2015, there are at least five (5) active exploration permits issued by the DENR-MGB in the province of Batangas. The most controversial among these are the exploration permits of Egerton Gold Phils., Inc. (MPSA 176-2002-IV & MPSA 177-2002-IV) both for exploration of gold and copper in a total of 2,175.1629 hectares in Lobo town and will expired in November 21, 2027.

Exploration, however, is the process of searching for valuable minerals and quantifying them. It enables the mining company to determine whether there is a feasible deposit for mining development and production. It may involve drilling to discover that is below the surface in varying methods at different stages of the process.

While Egerton has filed an application for commercial operation after a series of explorations confirm the existence of gold deposits in the area, said application remains to be a dot in the blank wall due to massive opposition of different sectors of the community.

While the Provincial Government of Batangas through Governor Hermilando I. Mandanas has declared its unequivocal opposition to large-scale mining within the province, the Provincial Government-Environment and Natural Resources Office (PG-ENRO) has issued at least 17 quarry permits and permit to transport and dispose issued to small-scale mining firms. Of this number, four (4) permitee are located in Taysan town. Said number, however, does not include another two permits issued for mechanical extraction of sand and gravel.

As of March 22, 2018, the MGB-CALABARZON Regional Office has also issued three (3) separate permits for same mechanical extraction of sand and gravel in nearby Lobo town.

Counteracting violations

Per records of the PG-ENRO, still there are plenty of violations of the Philippine Mining Act and the public are now starting to realize that they too can actively participate to curb these proliferations of illegal quarrying activities by filing their complaints or providing information to the law enforcers.

The combined personnel of PMRB and PG-ENRO are exerting efforts to monitor all quarrying and mining activities in the province. Documents obtained at the PG-ENRO revealed that the there are several quarrying activities being monitored and violators are being fined and were instructed to secure permits.

To properly abet these cases, the MGB-CALABARZON has recently hired young mining engineers to handle complaints in the two Community Environment and Natural Resources Offices (CENRO) of Lipa and Calaca. To strengthen the drive against violators, the MGB is now training some police officers, provincial guards, and other personnel as force multipliers.

Last April 22, 2018, a public consultation was held in Barangay Sto. Niño for the possible reopening of the quarry site that was ordered closed by the joint MGB-NBI team. Another company, Golden Shovel Land Development Service, asked the favorable endorsement of the community for the reopening of the quarry site. The company reportedly got the nod of the barangay residents but asked for an assurance of safety and non-utilization of dynamites in the breaking of the stone hill.

In all of these developments, residents are still hopeful of that the present administration will do something that will make quarry industry bring sustainable development to their community.

“Our mountains will not come back again, but we could put an end on irresponsible extraction of our natural wealth. It is undeniable that quarrying industry also contributes to our growing economy at large; but there could still a room for a responsible practice in the operations of these companies. We still hope for the best that the community benefit well from this very destructive industry,” Paz said.|

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