Shape Up Or Leave

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has recently released the result of its audit of mining operations in the Philippines. The said audit intended to “determine the adequacy and efficiency of environmental protection measures” of the mining companies involved, as stated in Memorandum Order No. 2016-01.

A total of 30 mining companies were ordered to suspend their operations for failure to comply with existing regulations and protocols, and these included Palawan-based Berong Nickel Corporation and Citinickel Mines. The oldest operating mining company in Palawan, Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation, was able to pass the standards of DENR.

Not surprisingly, DENR’s audit earned raised eyebrows from the mining community, particularly those who were severely affected by the Department’s suspension orders. Many claimed that the audit is unfair and merely superficial because it failed to bring out the positive impact of mining activities.

Although there is no law barring these companies from expressing their discontent, none of these negative reactions can dispute the fact that the present DENR team, headed by Secretary Gina Lopez, is showing a good start in running after erring mining companies. Raising the standards for mining operations, and actually implementing the penalties due for those who fall short to such regulations, has long been overdue for the mining industry, especially in light of the endless issues associated with it.

It will indeed be naïve to ignore the role of mining and other extractive industries in the national economy, but to remain in denial that it is terribly corrupted and skewed towards aggressive profit-making is an insult to the nation’s collective intelligence. The industry is riddled with players who keep on bending the law and putting greed over the welfare of the environment — waiting for improvements does not mean the government should keep allowing the safety of the communities and of the natural environment to be continually compromised.

This publication recognizes that there are mining companies who do strive to bring economic empowerment, among other benefits, to their communities. However, their existence, no matter how lauded, does not cancel out the violations and abuses perpetuated by the industry’s ‘rotten eggs’, whose utmost interest seems to be money at the expense of the people and the environment. DENR’s audit is sending a strong message to these companies who seem to have grown comfortable with the idea that they are above the law: do better and comply beyond what is required by the law. Or face the consequences.

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