MANILA –The latest Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) order cancelling 75 mining contracts throughout the country is consistent with the law, but due process must still be observed before its enforcement, a Malacañang official clarified Wednesday.
“The cancellation of 75 mineral production sharing agreements (MPSAs) by Secretary Regina Lopez is consistent with Republic Act 7942 that mining applications are closed to proclaimed watershed forest reserves,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement distributed to media.
“However, as agreed upon in the last Cabinet meeting, the DENR is to establish that it has gone through due process before enforcing the applicable laws, rules, or regulations,” Abella said.
According to the Palace official, “the DENR is to issue a show cause order for concerned mining companies and they will be given seven days to reply.”
Lopez on Tuesday ordered the cancellation of the 75 mining contracts in an intensified campaign to stop extraction of resources in sensitive areas.
The cancelled contracts, which cover projects that are still in the exploration stage or are not yet in production, are all located in watershed zones.
These include the USD5.9-billion Tampakan gold and copper project in South Cotabato, potentially the country’s biggest foreign investment and believed to be one of the largest gold prospects in the world.
Also affected by the cancellation order was the USD1.2-billion copper-gold project of Philex Mining Corp., one of the country’s biggest miners, in Mindanao.
Lopez said that she had to order the cancellation of the MPSAs because they could endanger the water supply.
Earlier, the DENR chief ordered the closure of 23 of the country’s 41 mineral mines while five other mines were suspended.
The February 2 decision to close or suspend existing mine operations followed a months-long audit of the mines.
This prompted an outcry from the mining industry, represented by the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), which maintained that due process were not observed in the proceedings.
On February 7, Abella said that President Rodrigo Duterte and his Cabinet decided to give affected mining firms the opportunity to present their side.
“This means companies affected by mining closures for violations of environmental laws and regulations will be given the opportunity to respond to or dispute the audit, or make the necessary remedies to ensure compliance with government standards,” Abella said.