Sen. Leila De Lima has called for a probe into the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) recent decision to lift the ban on open-pit mining in the country.
In a statement, the detained opposition lawmaker filed a resolution urging the appropriate Senate committee to review the said decision and explore other avenues for generating wealth without compromising people’s safety and damaging the environment.
“There is a need to conduct a thorough review of this policy decision as this can potentially open up the country once more to irresponsible mining practices which could further compromise the environment and pose health and safety risks to people and their communities,” De Lima said.
“It behooves our government to exert all efforts to explore other avenues before resorting to possibly catastrophic means of generating wealth for our country at the cost of sustainability and the welfare of present and future Filipinos,” she added.
Environment Sec. Roy Cimatu signed DENR Department Administrative Order No. 2021-40 on December 23, lifting the four-year-old ban on open-pit mining instituted by his predecessor — the late Gina Lopez.
The government considered the move as its attempt to revitalize the country’s economy, which foreign investors and the Department of Finance have welcomed. However, environmental groups have criticized the decision as a “shortsighted and misplaced development priority of the government.”
De Lima argued that open-pit mining, where material is excavated from an open pit, is said to be the type of mining that is “particularly damaging to the environment because strategic minerals are often only available in small concentrations, which increases the amount of ore needed to be mined.”
She further noted that the risks to human life and adverse environmental impacts of unregulated open-pit mining are well-documented, citing, among others, the 1996 Marcopper mining disaster in Marinduque.
During her stint as Justice Secretary, De Lima created a task force led by the National Bureau of Investigation to lead a crackdown on several illegal black sand mining operators in Cagayan and Ilocos Sur. The move led to the filing of charges against several individuals.
De Lima had filedSenate Bill 1075 seeking to prohibit black sand mining operations in the country. The bill has been pending for discussion since its filing in September 2019.