MALAYBALAY City, April 28, 2011â€”Ecologist Juan Romeo Nereus Olaivar â€œNericâ€ Acosta, a former congressman of the 1st district of Bukidnon province, has called for a no-nonsense and thorough review of all small-scale mining operations in the Philippines following the tragedy that struck the mining town of Pantukan in Compostela Valley.
Acosta, who many believed to be a shoo-in to the Environment portfolio, told reporters that the Pantukan tragedy is an eye-opener for policy-makers.
He said that this review must have three layers: governance, environmental and social justice considerations.
He explained that governance is the turf of the Interior and Local Government department which involved policing and enforcing of laws.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is the lead agency in environmental issues and it should make sure that mining operations comply with all environmental laws such as watershed protection, among others.
Also of equal importance, he said, is the social justice component, which is about providing alternative livelihood and welfare of mining-affected communities and also those affected by the suspension of small-scale mining operations.
The convenor of the Philippine Climate Imperative, an initiative that engages private sector in drawing up proposals to address the climate change issue, voiced strong opposition to calls for a moratorium on all mining operations earlier urged by Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo because of its â€œserious economic repercussions.â€
However, he said that government should now suspend all mining operations in critical areas all over the country like in Diwalwal, Monkayo, Compostela Valley.
â€œWe should not generalize all mining operations in the country. What we need to do now is to review the small-scale mining operations in the countrysides, especially those in critical areas like Diwalwal. But imposing a mining moratorium is not the way to go,â€ he said on the sidelines of the Bukidnon Watershed and River Basin Forum here Wednesday.
According to Acosta, who is a member of the Board of the Earth Council of the Philippines, the Aquino administrationâ€™s first job in addressing the â€œmining issueâ€ is to fill in all the loopholes in the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 before allowing mining companies (whether small-scale or large-scale) to operate.
And local government units (LGUs) play a very vital role in addressing this loopholes, he stressed, because LGUs were empowered to issue permits to small-scale mining operations.
â€œLGUs are very vital in this. The national government should institute a policy to make LGUs more responsible about mining in their areas,â€ he said.
Acosta, who wrote the â€œGreen Agendaâ€ of the Aquino administration during the campaign period last year, keynoted the Bukidnon Watershed and River Basin Forum in lieu of President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, who was unable to attend because of prior commitments. (Bong D. Fabe)