Business World Online

THE HOUSE committee on natural resources has approved on first reading bills seeking to declare Davao, Nueva Ecija, and Biliran provinces as mining-free zones, despite the opposition of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).

The MGB said the measures would have a negative impact on the local economy.

“The declaration of the entire province as a mining-free zone will have a serious implication to development and national interest,” the MGB said in a position paper submitted to the committee.

MGB Assistant Director Emil B. Billedo said it is only small-scale mining which should be prohibited in the cities, as large-scale miners contribute greatly to the local industry and are under the bureau’s strict regulation.

Butil Rep. Jose “Lito” L. Atienza, Jr., a former Environment secretary, added that banning large-scale mining would be detrimental to the economy.

Mr. Atienza said that mining is among the top “moneymakers” for the country, both at the local and national level.

He noted that despite good intentions to protect the environment, implementing a total ban would be “contrary to national interest.”

Gabriela Party-list Rep. Luzviminda C. Ilagan, among the bill’s sponsors, stressed the need for a “proactive” law to prevent mining companies to destroy local ecosystems.

“If it’s a question of investments, there are other options,” Ms. Ilagan said.

In response, the MGB appealed for the bills to still allow the national government to conduct mineral exploration in the provinces.

This is so as not to stunt possible economic gains from natural resources within the areas.

The committee approved the declaration of Davao, Nueva Ecija, and Biliran as mining-free zones on first reading, adopting the MGB’s suggestion.

The House of Representatives earlier approved on third reading to designate the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya, Cagayan de Oro, and Eastern Samar as mining-free zones.

The committee on natural resources also moved to consolidate pending measures seeking to amend the existing mining law under a technical working group.

Committee chairman Rep. Franscico T. Matugas (Surigao del Norte, 1st district) said the House also awaits the submission of the mining fiscal regime bill, which seeks to amend revenue sharing provisions between mining companies and local government units. — Melissa Luz T. Lopez

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