DENR chief vows to strictly enforce environmental laws in 'minahang bayan'

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FILE PHOTO. Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 25) Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu on Tuesday vowed to strictly enforce environment laws in small-scale mining sites or "minahang bayan" nationwide to avoid the repeat of the deadly landslide in Itogon, Benguet.

Cimatu said all small-scale mining operations will be regulated.

"We will really strictly enforce our conditions for the establishment of the minahang bayan (small-scale mining sites).. Number one, they will abide and be regulated. Number two, they will really comply with the requirements given," he said.

The Secretary recently ordered the Mines and Geosciences Bureau to review all applications for small-scale mining operations to see if they conform to safety standards for miners. This came despite his order to stop all mining activities in the cordillera administrative region.

Cimatu hopes to find a suitable site for small-scale mining in Benguet as soon as possible to allow miners to resume working.

"We will be making sure that once the minahang bayan, we'll make sure that it will be free from disasters, it will be free... Outside of danger zones, and they will be properly regulated in their tailings," he said.

Quarrying

Meanwhile, Cimatu said quarrying operations around the country can resume after 15 days if the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) doesn't find violations by quarrying companies.

The Secretary said he has instructed DENR regional directors to lift the suspension order if they find the communities living near quarrying sites to be safe.

"In the event na makita nila na walang community, walang ma-danger zones doon na wala namang ma-affect sa community, they can lift the stoppage," he said.

(Translation: In the event that they don't see any community in danger zones, nothing will affect the community, they can lift the stoppage.)

Cimatu earlier ordered the suspension of quarrying operations nationwide, following the deadly landslide in Naga City, Cebu that killed at least 56 people.

The agency is looking into the incident, and Cimatu said Apo Land and Quarry Corporation is ready to answer for any liability it may have over the tragedy.

"Dito naman sa Apo (Here at Apo), they were very willing to be investigated naman (anyway). Sabi nga nila (They said), whatever culpability we have, we'll face it," he said.