The inter-agency Mining Industry Coordinating Council started the “fact-finding and science-based” review of an initial batch of 26 mines ordered suspended or shut down last year by former Environment secretary Regina Lopez.
Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin, who represented the Finance Department at the MICC meeting on March 7, said the council conducted on-site visits to the mining areas early this month.
He said the first phase of the review covering legal, technical and environmental concerns would be completed within three months, while the social and economic aspects of the study would be done in another three months as requested by the technical review teams.
“When we were looking at this, we set the period for review for three months. But when the teams were formed, the concern, especially on the economic study, is that they will need the inputs from the technical, the legal and the environment,” Agabin said in a statement.
“If you will notice, the methodology for the social and economic aspects is that they will do a household survey. They were quite strict, the teams that we got. In fact, they didn’t want to continue on if there will not be an honest-to-goodness scientific survey done within the affected communities. That’s how meticulous they are,” Agabin said.
Marian de los Angeles, the overall coordinator of the TRTs, said experts comprising the teams were now in the field and began the review of the 26 mine sites.
De Los Angeles said the second phase of the review focusing on the social and economic aspects would include a “social cost benefit analysis,” an “evaluation of the changes in the ecosystem” and a “more in-detail look into the equity aspects” of the mining operations.
Agabin earlier said 25 experts would comprise the five TRTs tasked to conduct the review of the 26 mining operations.
MICC is co-chaired by incumbent Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.
Finance assistant secretary Teresa Habitan said the MICC tapped the Development Academy of the Philippines to implement and manage the “fact-finding and science-based” review process on the 26 mining operations.
Assistant Secretary Mercedita Sombilla of the National Economic and Development Authority said the review should come up with recommendations on mining-related methodologies and procedures to maximize the benefits of mining and avoid damages; the list of inefficiencies/violations/ damages done by mining companies that were difficult to address by the DENR alone; and the appropriate penalties that have to be imposed for such inefficiencies/violations/ damages done.
The TRTs are also expected to recommend measures that need to be instituted to avoid the recurrence of such inefficiencies/violations/ damages and to improve mining operations with a view to effectively safeguard the environment and protect the rights of resource-dependent communities, Sombilla said.
She said a list of provisions in any laws, rules and regulations that needed to be revised or amended to improve mining operations and ensure the development of a responsible mining sector, along with a framework, or set of standards and procedures to institutionalize the conduct of review for the remaining existing operating mines should also be covered by the study to be done by the TRTs.
“The final report will be a consolidated one. We will not see individual reports for each of the mines. It’s going to be consolidated. It’s going to be general―the key results that will come out of the 26 mining sites,” Sombilla said.