MANILA — The House of Representatives, since the start of the 16th Congress, has approved eight bills declaring two cities in Mindanao, five five provinces as well as one congressional district in another area of the country as mining-free zones.
“Mining has been statistically proven to be one of the most environmentally destructive industries,” the authors collectively stressed.
The proposed statutes, under consideration by the Senate, include: House Bill No. 45 by Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez and Rep. Maximo B. Rodriguez Jr.; HB 5262 authored by Rep. Isidro T. Ungab; HB 670 by Rep. Cesar V. Sarmiento; HB 3667 authored by Deputy Speaker Carlos M. Padilla; HB 3780 by Rep. Ben P. Evardone; HB 4363 of Rep. Deogracias B. Ramos Jr.; HB 5260 by Reo. Joseph Gilbert F. Violago; and HB 5261 by Rep. Rogelio J. Espina.
The House-approved measures have been steered through plenary by the sponsoring House Committee on Natural Resources chaired by Rep. Francisco T. Matugas and endorsed to the Senate in 2014.
The areas sought to be declared as mining-free zones include the Cities of Cagayan de Oro and Davao, and the provinces of Catanduanes, Nueva Viscaya, Eastern Samar, the 2nd District of Sorsogon, Nueva Ecija, and Biliran.
The authors cited the Constitutional mandate “to protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.”
“Mining has adverse effects both to humans and the environment. Aside from adding toxic chemicals to the ore, it strips-off large areas of top soil of all flora and fauna,” they said.
Furthermore, the lawmakers noted that apart from destroying the natural beauty of the environment, mining displaces communities, causes landslides, pollutes water sources and contributes to the greenhouse effect and climate change, among others.
The bills provide penalties on violators ranging from six years to 12 years imprisonment and/or fines ranging from P100,000 to P500,000.
Mining, as defined under the proposed statutes, refer to the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth and shall include such mining activities as exploration, feasibility, development, utilization and processing and large-scale quarry operations involving cement raw materials, marble, granite, sand and gravel construction aggregates.
However, mining activities may be allowed if the quarrying of gravel and sand for projects directly undertaken by government agencies or local governments when national interest so requires, and when there is need to determine the presence and availability of strategic raw materials for industries critical to national development or for scientific, cultural or ecological value.