November 21, 2017 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

Cimatu open to new projects when mining freeze ends

DEPARTMENT of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said he is open to allowing new mining projects after an investment freeze dating back to 2012 when Executive Order (EO) 79 was issued.

“Isn’t mining legal? As long as it’s responsible,” Mr. Cimatu told reporters at the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) on Friday when asked if he will open doors to new mining projects.

Asked if he is planning for a more investor-friendly environment, Mr. Cimatu replied in the positive.

EO 79, signed on July 6, 2012, extended indefinitely the moratorium on applications for new mining contracts in place since 2011.

Former Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez, in her first memorandum order, also ordered a freeze on the acceptance, processing, and approval of applications for both metallic and non-metallic mines.

This means aside from the passage into law of the pending revenue-sharing bill which will give government a higher share than it currently gets from mining revenues and which will lift the moratorium imposed by EO 79, the memo order issued by Ms. Lopez will also have to be lifted.

Mr. Cimatu, however, stressed that he has yet to order any policy changes.

Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (CoMP) Executive Vice-President Nelia C. Halcon said the group is seeking to meet with Mr. Cimatu to discuss policy proposals.

“We are preparing a wish list,” Ms. Halcon told reporters on the sidelines of the MGB event while declining to provide details.

Ms.Halcon added that CoMP will elevate its concerns to the MGB Concurrent Director Mario Luis J. Jacinto.

Sought for comment, Mr. Jacinto told reporters on Friday: “We will give our objective assessment. We can’t side with them (miners). But we will give objective information.”

“We can’t side with them but we can’t also oppress them. They have to point out why certain things should not be implemented or be implemented,” added Mr. Jacinto who is also an Undersecretary of the Environment Department. -- Janina C. Lim