Mining firms vow legal battle vs DENR order

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DENR Secretary Gina Lopez

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Members of the mining industry expressed dismay over the cancellation of 75 mining contracts, and are prepared to fight the order in court.

Environment Secretary Gina Lopez ordered the cancellations, saying the contracts are for mining operations in watersheds, and these would be harmful to the environment. 

But mining firms say the order is merely a temporary setback and they intend to challenge the decision.

They are considering the following measures:

  • To appeal the decision directly to President Rodrigo Duterte and ask for clarification on the country's mining policy.
     
  • To challenge the order in court, sayingn it was a clear violation of due process on the part of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

According to Dante Bravo, President of Global Ferronickle Holdings, they will continue to challenge Lopez's appointment as long as violations against due process are being made.

He said, "At the moment, the announcement would have a disruptive effect but short term in a sense because our Constitution has not changed, and the Constitution itself allows mining."

Members of the mining industry also want to ask if the DENR has considered the thousands who would become jobless because of the stoppage in mining operations.

They are also asking why the government is making no move to stop small-scale and illegal mining operations.

They say that focusing on illegal mining would do the government more good, instead of hitting large-scale miniers who follow the law.

Challenging Lopez's appointment

The Chamber of Mines has submitted its opposition to the Commission on Appointments against Lopez.

According to their Vice President Nelia Halcon, should Lopez be reappointed, they will assess if they would resubmit their reopposition.

She said, "Karamihan po ng kinansela, nabigyan ng Presidential Industry Environmental awards, so nakakapagtaka [Many of those whose contracts were cancelled previously received Presidential Industry Environmental awards, so it's a bit bewildering]...we are hoping the DENR will instill yung science-based and ovjective-based evaluation of mining companies."

Halcon said this was the first time that the Chamber of Mines has challenged the appointment of a DENR Secretary.

They said they have been able to hold dialogues with former DENR Secretaries regarding issues, unlike Lopez who makes sudden decisions.

Halcon added, "In some ways he (Duterte) has to say something about supporting her. But kahit may sinabi siyang 'I support you,' meron namang kolatilya yun [Even if he said 'I support you,' that has colatilla]. Follow the rule of law. Follow the Philippine Mining Act. Be just and fair and we believe in the president, that he will take consideration, that he will consider that"

23 mining firms closed

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) announced on Feb. 9 the closure of 23 mining firms all over the country.

Environment Secretary Gina Lopez said the 23 companies, that are operating on or near watersheds, caused siltation of coastal waters and destruction of watersheds, among other violations. Siltation happens when excessive mineral particles contaminate a body of water.

Read: DENR closes 23 mining firms, plans rehabilitation of affected areas

After Malacanang and cabinet members halted the closure of more than 20 mining firms, Lopez said the government should always be for the poor.

Read: Gov't shouldn't side with big businesses - Lopez

"The only entity that can stand against political and business interest is the government. And if we co-opt our role to the side of big business, what's going to happen to these guys? The farmers and fishermen who have been suffering for decades," Lopez said.

Owners of mining companies immediately reacted after Lopez announced the closure order, saying they do not violate environmental laws.

Lopez said the final decision regarding the closure is still up to the President.

CNN Philippines digitial producer Yvette Morales contributed to this report