(PN file photo)

The provincial government of Palawan will be hosting the first ever Palawan Stakeholders Congress on Mining and the Environment to discuss issues and concerns regarding the mining industry in the province.

Governor Victorino Dennis Socrates said during the Arampangan sa Kapitolyo program of the Provincial Information Office last Friday that the congress scheduled on April 24-26, was conceptualized from the Usapang Palawan forum held in 2021.

He said the conduct of the stakeholders congress is also an exercise on how serious he is with his agenda of promoting good governance as the main thrust of his administration.

“And good governance means the government has to seriously assume responsibility over the common good kasi yun talaga ang trabaho ng gobyerno. Someone has to be in charge of the common good and that is the government,” he explained.

“And the common good is so complex, one of my realizations along the way in the course of doing politics, it’s so vast. Kung iisipin mo na kasama diyan hindi lang yung material kundi pati yung kalooban ng tao, yung kanyang spiritual dimention,” he added.

Socrates explained that with the mining issue becoming a bigger concern in the province, there is a need to discuss it more with all stakeholders concerned. He said that while mining industry is more of a national policy concern, he feels the duty of the local government to somehow call for a gathering of different sectors for discussions.

The three-day congress will revolve around six major discussions to be presented by agencies concerned namely the – national policy framework on mining to be discussed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources through the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MG); sustainable development framework for Palawan  from the perspective of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development; stewardship of creation from the religious perspective; impacts of mining on socio-economic development; compliance, monitoring and enforcement also to be discussed by the MGB); and the issue of sustainable mining.

Socrates said the last topic was actually framed with a question mark on whether there is indeed sustainable mining, recalling the case filed by Atty. Tony Oposa against then DENR Secretary Fulgencio Factoran.

The provincial chief executive likewise said the congress aims to come up with a declaration that all stakeholders would have a consensus on.

“It could be something that can be called the position of the community,” he said.

He added that while the declaration would not be binding, the congress being just basically a discussion among experts, they could somehow use it as guiding principles for future policies.

“I would like to think that such declaration or document could serve as guide in the medium and long term, how regulators and officials will behave when decisions have to be made,” he explained.

“Sa declaration that I visualize, I suppose merong lalabas diyan na proposals that we can all agree on and can be addressed to our national policy makers like congress and even DENR,” he added, stating further that with all stakeholders agreeing to such declaration would deliver stronger message to the national agencies concerned.

The governor also stated that while he remains neutral regarding the issue, he has always taken the position that is always based on the rule of law.

“I have no attachment either way. Wala naman akong interest sa pagmimina pero hindi rin naman ako galit sa mina dahil alam ko, economically, siya ay isang industriya and I think the bulk of our GDP (gross domestic product) is from the mining industry,” he stated.

One more thing that the congress aims to accomplish he said is for the opposing sides to face off in a rational discussion and a polite and civilized setting for each other to present their perspectives.

“In that way, maybe we’ll learn to understand and maybe even sympathize with the views that are on the other side. So maybe magkita somewhere in between extreme views. And that’s one of the things that we hope to accomplish by holding this summit, mabawasan yung rancor,” he elaborated.