Zambo Sur guv supports responsible mining, economic development

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By Antonio M. Manaytay (SunStar Philippines)

BAYOG, Zamboanga del Sur -- Governor Antonio Cerilles has declared his support to mining as long it is responsible and complies with government regulations.

Cerilles, speaking before a forum on mining last March 7, reiterated his stand that mining should be responsible and must pass the necessary government requirements before being allowed to operate. The forum was attended by more than 200 people.

He cited TVI Resource Development Philippines Inc. (TVIRD) as one of the mining companies that follow and observe the principles of responsible mining.

TVIRD holds a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) covering some 4,779 hectares encompassing the gold-rich mountain of Balabag of this town.

The company received an approved Environmental Compliance Certificate in 2013 and Declaration of Mine Project Feasibility in 2016. It also received an approval for its Social Development Management Program from the MGB in May 2014.

For a mining operation to be responsible, Cerilles said it must have demonstrated the capacity to comply the rigorous processes required by the government.

Cerilles, who was also secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources during the administration of former President Joseph Estrada, pointed out that what destroys the environment and pollute the waters are the illegal and small-scale miners whose operations are not strictly regulated by the government.

The waters in Dumanquillas Bay of the province were polluted due to small-scale miners whose unregulated use of toxic chemicals caused undetermined damage to the environment, he said.

He added that for years, red tide was recurrent at the Dumanquillas Bay.

But the pollution in the bay was minimized when the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, upon the recommendation of the Provincial Government, issued a cease-and-desist order to all small-scale mining operations in the area, said Cerilles.

The governor is optimistic that TVIRD will deliver its commitment to safe guard the environment as it implements its operations in the area.

He is also convinced that the company can bring the needed development for the community in terms of livelihood, social development projects, and improved local government revenues.

Mayor Leonardo Babasa, for his part, expressed his optimism with what the mining company could bring in terms of development for the town.

He said the revenue to be generated from the company's operations is a "big help for our town."

With illegal and small-scale mining around, the town can only do so much because the local government does not the power to levy taxes and fees, he said.

Babasa called on the National Government to allow the company to proceed with its operations.

Last February 14, TVIRD was among the 75 MPSA holders recommended for cancellation by Environment Secretary Gina Lopez on the ground that it is within the watershed area.

But TVIRD refuted the reports that its area is within the watershed area. Its president, Eugene T. Mateo, said the company's Balabag Project "is not located within the vicinity of any lake, spring or tributary enumerated in the country's list of proclaimed watershed forest reserves or any critical watershed."

Balabag is not included in the list of the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (Namria) and National Integrated Protected Areas System (Nipas).

Mateo said TVIRD deemed the "cancellation of the MPSA" as having no merit."