By ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ
JOSE Panganiban Mayor Ricarte Padilla has appealed to Malacanang to grant mineral-host municipalities across the country regulatory powers over large and small-scale mining operations in their areas.
Ricarte made the appeal in a recent letter to Executive Secretary Paquito N Ochoa, Jr, in which he pointed out that most of the mining activities are “conducted in municipalities and rarely in cities”.
“This is the said reality, but how come we cannot regulate their (miners) operations?” he told MWBuzz in a recent interview regarding the issue.
The mayor stressed in his letter that there has never been a regulatory unit called Municipal Mining Regulatory Board (MMRB), although a draft Executive Order (EO) mandates the “constitution and/or operationalization of the Provincial and/or City Mining Regulatory Board within three months from the effectivity of the order”.
The draft EO which is entitled “Upgrading Environmental Standards and Increasing Government Revenues in Mining” was prepared by the Office of the Secretary.
Ricarte said his office was “perplexed as to the wisdom of the provision in the EO” because mine sites are situated in municipalities.
However, in the said EO, “there is no such thing as the Municipal Mining Regulatory Board (MMRB) being created”, he said.
“While we understood that regulatory control and issuance of small-scale mining permits are vested in the mandated PMRB in such case that mining areas are situated in municipalities, why can’t there be an MMRB?”
Under the national mining law, the Department Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Environment Management Bureau (EMB) and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) are tasked with the issuance of large and small-scale mining permits with full corresponding regulatory functions and control over mining activities.
And very soon, under the draft EO, provincial and city governments would be given similar regulatory powers.
On this, Ricarte said this practice “is self-defeating for municipalities concerned”.
He pointed out that mining is predominantly conducted in municipalities and its ill-effects will be felt by the host municipality in the years to come.
“We believe that the municipality, as host of mining activity, can exercise much proper due diligence processes in determining the capability of a mining applicant to fully observe environmental protection and socio-economic interventions within the areas affected by their operations.
“Moreover, with the local chief executive (LCEs)of host municipality sitting as regular member of the PMRB, the issues on infrastructure dilapidation caused by the passage of heavy equipment by mining operators could be fully addressed.”
Ricarte said that if an MMRB would not be allowed to exist under the law, “we propose to make it compulsory for the local chief executive (mayor) to have a seat in the PMRB as a form of installing check and balance in the processing of small-scale mining permits.
He also proposed that LCEs be given the power to constitute a “municipal mining regulatory council”, which shall be tasked to closely monitor compliance of small and large-scale mining operations within their areas of jurisdiction.
Padilla said this will be carried out in close coordination with the DENR, PMRB and other government agencies concerned.
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