Press Release
November 13, 2009


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today assailed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for issuing an environment clearance certificate (ECC) to a foreign mining venture in Mindoro island in a water-shed area in total disregard of the strong objection of the provincial folk against the activity due to its potentially harmful effects on agriculture and human health.

Pimentel said the issuance of the ECC, which is tantamount to a go-signal to start nickel mining, is the height of insensitivity and arrogance because the local government units and all sectors in Mindoro Occidental and Mindoro Oriental are united against this activity due to the environmental havoc that it could bring to the agriculture-rich island.

"Environment and natural resources authorities should have disallowed the mining project because water-sheds are protected areas and are off-limits to mining," the minority leader said.

"The authority of the DENR to issue mining permits should be exercised based on what is good for the people from whom all the powers of government emanates."

In fact, Pimentel said the duty of the government to protect uphold the general welfare of the citizens as enshrined in the 1987 Constitution and the Local government Code.

Likewise, he said the Mining Code of l995 specifically provides the consent of the indigenous people and other residents of communities around the mining sites before the government can allow any mining operation.

Pimentel said the nickel project of the Intex Mining Corporation can by no means be justified because it would endanger the critical watershed reservation areas in the mountain range between Mindoro Occidental and Mindoro Oriental.

He said the degradation and destruction of the protected watershed areas would threaten the irrigation of vast agricultural lands, specially ricefields, and pollute the source of drinking water for the local populace.

Pimentel reminded DENR Secretary Lito Atienza that one of his predecessors, former Secretary Heherson Alvarez, in fact, cancelled the permit for the Mindoro Nickel Project in 2002 because it would cause "irreparable damage to the environment which will cost human lives, health and livelihood capacity of our farmers and fisherfolk, endangering the food security of our people."

"The DENR's action in allowing the nickel mining operation defies logic because the law invoked by the mining proponents, the Mining Code expressly provides that watershed reservations are closed to all kinds of mining, logging and quarrying activities," he said.

He said mining invariably involves the cutting of trees in the forest and the use of toxic chemical substances. Aside from this, he said mine tailings are dumped into the rivers that not only poison and pollute the waters but also cause heavy siltation of waterways.

Pimentel stressed that while mining may be a source of wealth that can stimulate the economy, it should be done following the best practices of the world.

Pimentel was informed by Mindoro Occidental Governor Josefina Sato that the legislative councils of her province, as well as affected municipalities, have passed ordinances banning any form of mining but this failed to dissuade the DENR from issuing the ECC to the mining venture.

He commended Gov. Sato and other local government executives for holding their ground in opposing the mining project.

Sato complained to Pimentel that Atienza, instead of looking into their appeal to stop the Mindoro Mining Project, rebuked them for their stand and told them to respect the authority of the DENR to grant mining permits.

Pimentel underscored the need for the government to reorient its mining policy in the light of the massive devastations triggered by recent typhoons, which were aggravated by landslides caused by soil erosion which could be partly traced to indiscriminate mining activities.

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