BY ROGER M. BALANZA
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte defended the Anti-Mining Ordinance recently approved by the City Council, saying that critics can only stop its implementation through a court order.
Mayor Duterte, former Mayor Sara Duterte and Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte are one in opposing mining as a risk to people and environment and for the social problems they bring.
The city ordinance declared the city off-limit to all forms of mining except quarrying of sand and gravel and other non-metallic minerals.
“No approval shall be granted or issued by the city through its Sangguniang Panglungsod to any person, natural or juridical, to undertake any and all forms of mining operation in any area within the territorial jurisdiction of Davao City, except rocks and mineral substances classified under the quarry,” the ordinance stated.
The legality of the ordinance may be challenged in court as mining is allowed by Republic Act 7942, or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 otherwise known as the act “Instituting a New System of Mineral Resources Exploration, Development, Utilization and Conservation.”
This could be an open challenge to the national law. Critics can always go to court, Duterte said even as he adds that a local ordinance could not be stronger than the national law.
Local environmentalists hailed the ordinance and urged Dabawenyos to defend the ban that is a step forward for to end destructive activities that would permanently damage the country’s rich natural resources.
At least 12 local government units, including provinces and city governments across the Philippines have already banned large-scale mining. They include Mindoro Oriental, Mindoro Occidental, Puerto Princesa City, Marinduque, Romblon, Guimaras, Capiz, Albay, Eastern Samar, Northern Samar, Western Samar, and Negros Occidental.
Mining operators who defy the ordinance must have to contend with the armed New Peoples Army (NPA). The communist rebels have a heavy presence in the city’s mountain districts said to be rich in mineral deposits.
Ever since, there has been no mining operation in the city even as the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said there are pending mining applications in Marilog and Paquibato districts.
Vicente Lao, President of the Alliance of Responsible Miners (ARMOR) in the Davao Region, said ARMOR plans to go to the Supreme Court to question the legality of the ordinance.
Lao said the ban is wrong as mining can be regulated to protect the environment and bring employment and economic benefit to the city.
“The Davao City mining ban is a fruit of the people’s tireless struggles to oppose destructive large-scale mining projects,” said the local environmental group Panalipdan-Southern Mindanao.
But Kalumaran also said that fines imposed by the ordinance are too miniscule to effectively discourage violators. The ordinance imposes a vine of only P5,000.
Kalumaran, an alliance of 18 ethnolinguistic lumad groups in Mindanao, warned against lobby groups bribing the government to allow mining operations in the city.
“There will be political pressures from Malacañang and mining companies to strike down the mining ban ordinance,” said Kalumaran.
He said two US-based mining companies and a Filipino company are eyeing to explore some 17,000 hectares in Paquibato District, which is home to indigenous peoples.
Kalumaran commended the leadership of Vice Mayor Duterte and Mayor Duterte for :giving teeth to the newest pro-people and environment-responsive legislation.”
“The unbridled extraction of mineral wealth by multinational corporations has only fuelled violence in the communities and brought unspeakable destruction to the environment. The so-called benefits of mining are just but myths created by those who want to control the exploitation and utilization of our natural resources,” Kalumaran said.