A CONSUMER group on Sunday challenged Environment Secretary Gina Lopez to make public the guidelines for the multi-million-peso trust fund she is requiring the suspended mining firms to set up before they are allowed to bring out and export their stockpiles.
The group Water for All Refund Movement and United Filipino Consumers and Commuters or WARM-UFCC made the demand even as Surigao del Norte Rep. Roberto Ace Barbers called for transparency in the role of former Mines and Geosciences Bureau Director Leo Jasareno in the Environment department.
Barbers said it was inappropriate for Lopez to be relying on Jasareno who had no clear position in the government and who had approved the permits of those firms that Lopez had suspended.
WARM-UFCC president Rodolfo Javellana told the Kapihan sa Anabel’s forum that they had written Lopez to inquire about her Jan. 30, 2017 memorandum requiring all suspended mining firms to set up a trust fund of P2 million per hectare of disturbed land before they could allowed to remove their stockpiles.
“We would like to be enlightened on the January 30, 2017 Memorandum you issued to all suspended mining firms settling requirements before they can be allowed to remove the stockpiles particularly the condition for the opening of a trust fund account in the amount of P2 million per hectare of disturbed land,” Javellana said in his letter.
Environment department documents showed that on Jan. 30, 2017, Lopez ordered all suspended mining firms to each open a trust fund account in the amount of P2 million per every hectare of disturbed land before they could be allowed to remove their stockpiles from the mining areas and given export permits.
‘‘This Office is allowing the removal of said stockpiles on condition that the following requirements are complied with .[that] [t]he mining contractor concerned shall place in a trust fund the amount of Php2 million per hectare of disturbed land, to be used to further mitigate the adverse impacts of the operation to the environment and to the actual communities, Lopez said.
Javellana said that while the intention of the trust might be commendable, he found ‘‘very disturbing the reports that Lopez was requiring the setting up of non-governmental organizations to manage the trust fund based on the guidelines set by her Office, including who its members would be, the recipients of the trust fund and the drafting of all company documents.
He said Lopez should be transparent on the issue of the trust fund because it should be the public that should benefit from it and not the businesses engaged in the supposed rehabilitation programs.
He then cited Environment Undersecretary Philip Camara who used to be the president and chief executive of Biochamp Association, a company engaged in mining rehabilitation. He said Lopez should make public the contracts involved in the setting up of the trust fund in order to avoid any conflict of interest.