SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
The House of Representatives approved on second reading House Bill 9019 which seeks to declare the province of Marinduque a mining-free zone.
Principally authored by Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco (Lone District, Marinduque), the bill seeks to declare the province of Marinduque a mining-free zone and prohibit all forms of mining operations and activities, whether large-scale or small-scale, within its territorial jurisdiction.
“As citizens of the Philippines, we have the inter-generational responsibility to preserve and protect the environment that is capable of sustaining life. The right carries with it the correlative duty to refrain from impairing the environment,” said Velasco.
Velasco said the Marcopper Mining Disaster caused irreparable damage to the people and the province of Marinduque. He said the effects of the incident were so devastating that a United Nations (UN) assessment mission declared it to be a major environmental disaster. He earnestly sought for the immediate passage of the bill to protect and preserve the natural environment of Marinduque after the disaster.
The bill is co-authored by Reps. Tricia Nicole Velasco-Catera (Party list, MATA) and Rodrigo Abellanosa (2nd District, Cebu City).
The bill declares it is a policy of the State to protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.
The provision of Republic Act 7942 otherwise known as the “Mining Act of 1995,” Republic Act 7076 otherwise known as the “People’s Small-Scale Mining Act”, and other laws, rules and regulations on mining inconsistent with the Act shall have no application within the territorial jurisdiction of the locality.
The bill covers all mining operations and activities, including quarrying within the territorial jurisdiction of Marinduque.
For the purpose of the bill, “mining” refers to the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth and shall include such mining activities as exploration, conduct of geological feasibility studies, development, utilization and processing, as well as quarry operations involving cement raw materials, marble, granite, sand and gravel construction aggregates, and other resources.
The bill mandates that all valid existing contracts, exploration permits, licenses, technical agreements and mineral production sharing agreements in accordance with the RA 7942, covering any areas of Marinduque at the date of effectivity of the Act, shall be recognized by the government and shall remain valid until the expiration or termination thereof.
Thereafter, no further extension or renewal shall be granted. Moreover, the government shall not issue new exploration permits nor enter into new mineral agreements or similar other agreements covering lands within the jurisdiction of Marinduque.
Upon the effectivity of the Act, no exploration permits to conduct further exploration activities or an application for extension shall be granted even during the lifetime of existing mining contracts, technical and financial assistance agreements and mineral production sharing agreements.
The exploration activities and mining operations under the existing exploration permits, mineral agreements and other similar agreements shall be undertaken immediately by the permittee or contractor. In case of failure to initiate or undertaken any exploration activity or mining operation within two years from the effectivity of the Act, the exploration permit or mineral agreement shall be declared dormant by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Dormant permits or agreement shall ipso facto be cancelled upon declaration of dormancy.
The bill also mandates that all small-scale mining contracts as enunciated in RA 7076 in the province are cancelled upon the effectivity of the Act. Affected small-scale mining contractors have one year from the time the law takes effect to undertake the rehabilitation, regeneration and reforestation of mineralized areas, slope stabilization of mined-out and tailing-covered areas, watershed development and water preservation.
Moreover, the existing quarry permit issued by the provincial government at the time of the effectivity of the Act shall be recognized. Thereafter, quarry permits issued by the provincial governor shall be regularly reviewed and monitored by the DENR.
Any person, natural or juridical, or any public officer, who violates the provisions of the Act shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment of 6 to 12 years and fine of P1 million to P10 million.
Furthermore, any public officer who violates the Act shall also be dismissed from the service and perpetually disqualified from holding public office.
If the violator is a juridical entity, the highest ranking official and the members of its board of directors or trustees who authorized the violations therein shall suffer the penalty imposed in the Act.
The bill mandates the DENR to formulate the necessary rules and regulations for the effective implementation of the Act. /Eddie Galvez, News and Documentation Section-Press and Public Affairs Bureau/ House of Representatives of the Philippines.