Bill declaring Davao Oriental a mining-free zone hurdles final reading

Friday, April 12, 2019 12:00 AM    Views : 203by:House of Representatives

Thousands of lives may be spared in Davao Oriental as the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading House Bill No. 8815, which seeks to declare Davao Oriental a mining-free zone.

The proposed “Davao Oriental Mining-Free Zone Act” declares it is the responsibility of the State to promote the rational exploration, development, utilization and conservation of the mineral resources of the country, which effectively safeguards the environment and protects the rights of affected communities.

Rep. Joel Mayo Almario (2nd District, Davao Oriental), principal author of the measure, said in the explanatory note of his bill that an alarming and pressing issue that the country is facing is that Davao Oriental sits on a 320-kilometer fault line that stretches from Surigao Province up to Compostela Valley. This is based on the finding by the Philippine Institute on Volcanology and Seismology – Department of Science and Technology (PHIVOLCS-DOST) together with the members of the Department of Geophysics at Kyoto University and the Department of Geography at Hiroshima University.

“Sitting on a large swath of land in the coastal areas of Mati City, the PHIVOLCS has predicted that should an earthquake happen in close proximity to the province, a tsunami would strike the coast hard, endangering all the coastal towns and its hundreds of residents,” he said.

Almario noted that mining will magnify the danger posed by the fault line, threatening the lives of thousands of citizens in the province.

“The prohibition of mining operations now becomes extremely necessary…There are thousands of lives that are put on the line so long as the environment is not cared for, and no mitigating activities to prevent its further destruction are put in place,” Almario said.

For this reason, HB 8815 shall prohibit all forms of mining operations and activities in Davao Oriental, whether large-scale or small-scale. It shall also monitor the quarrying activities within the province.

The bill also provides that all valid and existing mining contracts, exploration permits, licenses, technical and financial agreements and mineral production sharing agreements in accordance with Republic Act No. 7942 or the “Philippine Mining Act of 1995” shall be recognized by the government and shall remain valid until its expiration.

However, the bill states that no further extension or renewal of contract, permit, license or agreement shall be granted thereafter.

Exploration permits to conduct further exploration activities or application for extension shall likewise be prohibited.

The bill also seeks to terminate all small-scale mining contracts enunciated in Republic Act No. 7076 or the “People’s Small-scale Mining Act of 1991.” Affected contractors shall be given one year to undertake rehabilitation, regeneration and reforestation of mineralized areas, slope stabilization of mined-out and tailing-covered areas, watershed development and water preservation.

As for quarrying, issuance of permits in the mining-free zone shall be under the direct supervision of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

While existing quarry permits issued by the provincial government shall be recognized, the measure stipulates that these shall also be reviewed and monitored by the DENR.

The maximum area that a qualified individual may hold at one time within the province shall be five hectares.

A permit shall be cancelled by the provincial government for areas up to five hectares, or the DENR for those above five hectares, when the holder engages in activities authorized by exploration permits, mineral agreements or mining contracts in the guise of quarrying activities.

The bill stipulates that violators of the Act's provisions shall be penalized with imprisonment of six to 12 years and a fine of P1 million to P10 million.

Its co-authors are Reps. Rodrigo Abellanosa (2nd District, Cebu City) and Arnel Ty (Party-list, LPGMA)./ Molie Gonzales, News Documentation Section-Press and Public Affairs Bureau/ House of Representatives of the Philippines


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