The House of Representatives approved on final reading Monday a bill declaring the 3rd district of Palawan as a “mining-free zone.”

The district is composed of the municipality of Aborlan and Puerto Princesa City.

Atty. Michelle Marie F. Ricaza-Acosta, chief of staff of 3rd Palawan District Rep. Gil Acosta, said Tuesday that House Bill No. 8816 was approved upon the recommendation of the Committee on Natural Resources chaired by Cebu City 2nd District Rep. Rodrigo A. Abellanosa.

Under the bill, Atty. Acosta said except for the quarrying of gravel, sand, and marbles, all other forms of mining operations and activities in the district’s territorial jurisdiction are prohibited.

She said quarrying was excluded since Reps. Acosta and Abellanosa, co-authors of the bill, believe that aggregates are important to infrastructure projects that are being implemented by the local and national governments in Palawan.

“Kailangan kasi ng aggregates para sa mga national government projects. Para sa quarrying, naniniwala si Rep. Acosta na maraming requirements naman to regulate activities. Andyan ang Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, ang city and municipal mining regulatory bodies, at Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to check,” Atty. Acosta said.

She said the bill refers to mining as “extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials”.

She also added that “exploration, feasibility, development, utilization, and processing for small-scale or large-scale mining are also prohibited under the bill.

Violation of its provisions, she said, carries the penalties of six years but not more than 12 years of imprisonment and a fine of not less than P1 million but not more than P10 million.

Public officers who will violate the act can also be dismissed from service and perpetually disqualified from holding any public office.

If the violator is a juridical entity, the highest ranking official and the members of its board of directors or trustees shall be held accountable.

“Ang problema lang baka abutan na ito ng closing ng 18th Senate. Pero approved na sa Lower House,” Atty. Acosta said.

In 2017, Rep. Acosta said that while mining provides job opportunities, the degree of damages it can cause to land, livelihood, and the general well-being of Palaweños has become exceptionally alarming over the years.

“I asked the MGB (Mining and Geosciences Bureau) and the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) to spare the 3rd Palawan District from proposed mining operations because there is already mining in the southern part of the province. Spare Puerto Princesa and Aborlan already,” he said.