‘The mere fact that mining companies replied to the DENR’s audit findings means that they acknowledge due process was being observed,’ says Environment Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Maria Paz Luna
MANILA, Philippines (Feb. 26, 2017) — Boxes of documents related to the mining audit were presented to reporters on Friday, February 24, as an environment official reiterated that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) followed due process in conducting the audit.
“This is what we have. We’re being transparent, but you have to go through the process of securing these documents,” Environment Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Maria Paz Luna said in a press conference Friday.
— Jee Y. Geronimo (@jeegeronimo) February 24, 2017
She addressed criticism from the mining industry that the DENR did not follow due process when it ordered the closure and suspension of 28 mining operations in the country.
“Nakakainis ‘yung ‘di daw transparent (It’s annoying when they say we’re not transparent). The ones requiring transparency want it to be served to them on a silver platter…. Use our FOI [Freedom of Information] manual to secure these documents,” Luna added.
According to the DENR, there are 7 steps that must be followed for an audit to be credible:
- A formal letter is sent to a mining company informing it of a pending audit.
- An entry conference is conducted by the DENR with the mining company just before the actual audit.
- A representative from the mining company is included in the audit team as observer, who ushers the audit team to the company’s mining sites.
- An exit conference for all concerned parties is conducted after the audit.
- The audit findings are submitted to the mining company.
- The mining company is allowed to reply within a prescribed 7-day period.
- The DENR receives the mining company’s replies and makes a decision on the continuance, suspension, or closure of mining operations.
“The mere fact that mining companies replied to the DENR’s audit findings means that they acknowledge due process was being observed,” Luna said in a separate statement.
In addition to the 7 steps, the DENR also enumerated 7 laws relevant to the mining audit. The department said each mining firm’s audit findings clearly state which violations of these laws were committed:
- Republic Act 7942 (The Philippine Mining Act of 1995) and DENR Administrative Order 2010-21 (Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 7942)
- Presidential Decree 705 (Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines)
- Presidential Decree 1586, establishing an Environmental Impact Statement System Including Other Environmental-Related Measures and for Other Purposes
- Republic Act 6969 (Toxic Substance and Hazardous and Nuclear Waste Control Act of 1990)
- Republic Act 8749 (Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999)
- Presidential Decree 1067 (The Water Code of the Philippines)
- Republic Act 9275 (Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004)
According to a Business Mirror report, the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) is set to form 5 technical groups that will review the DENR’s closure and suspension orders.
Luna said the DENR will take part in the review since the environment secretary is co-chair of the MICC.
“During the meeting of the MICC, one of the things I said was, can you assume already the regularity of performance of function? But of course this is an industry that was not used to this level of implementation, so I can just guess, but perhaps they’re trying to assuage the fears of the industry, but it’s still not true that there was no due process,” Luna said in a mix of English and Filipino during Friday’s press conference.
Echoing earlier statements of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, Luna said the MICC is recommendatory to the secretary. She thinks results of the review “would go into a motion for reconsideration for the secretary’s review.”
“Baka nga (Maybe) it just adds another layer to an already 8-month process. Of course, the MICC is also going to submit directly to the Office of the President, but for anybody who has filed an appeal to the Office of the President, that’s part of due process already.”
She’s concerned that many believe the “assumptions of lack of due process” without asking first about the actual process.
“May judgments as to how these decisions were reached, but I’d like to tell you that siguro nangyari lang ‘to kasi matagal nang hindi implemented to the fullest extent ang batas, so inabutan lang kami,” she added.
(There are judgments as to how these decisions were reached, but I’d like to tell you that maybe this is all happening because for so long, we have not implemented the law to the fullest extent, and this just caught up with us.)
Aside from the closure and suspension of mining operations, DENR this month also announced the cancellation of of 75 mineral production sharing agreements in watersheds all over the country, and the issuance of show cause orders to 22 mining companies that failed to complete the deposit of their Final Mine Rehabilitation/Decommissioning Fund.