BY ROGER M. BALANZA
The Davao City Council led by Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte is set to amend an ordinance which declared Davao City as “mining-free.”
But Floor Leader Councilor Bernie Al-ag said the amendment will not allow mining but will instead refine and strengthen the measure against threats that would question its legality.
The ordinance passed three years ago declared that Davao City should be free from all forms of mining.
The anti-mining measure is strongly supported by Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, former Mayor Sara Duterte and Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte. In support of the local ordinance, Third District Rep. Isidro Ungab proposed a House resolution also declaring Davao City as mining-free.
City councilors have conducted preliminary discussion on the ordinance and committee hearings are set to fine-tooth proposed amendments.
Al-ag said the local mining-free ordinance may suffer the fate of the South Cotabato Province Environmental Code which had been challenged in court by Sagittarius Mining (SMI).
The Environmental Code banned open-pit mining, a mining practice that would be used by SMI in its $US59B gold and silver project in Tampakan.
While SMI had backed out of the project due to strong public opposition by environmentalists, the Catholic Church and communist insurgents, the case it brought against the Environmental Code to the Supreme Court is still alive. The High Court was still to make a ruling.
Al-ag said Davao City’s mining-free ordinance may collide with the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 which not only promotes small-scale mining but also does not impose a total ban on mining activities.
Al-ag also noted that in wake of the squabble between the South Cotabato government and SMI, President Benigno Aquino issued a mining policy that ordered against local governments passing mining legislations that collides with national laws.
Philippine laws allows responsible mining and had opened the industry to foreign companies.
The SMI project was to have been the single biggest direct foreign investment in the country.
Several mining companies had applied for mining ventures in the city’s upland areas to be rich in mineral deposits but the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) denied the applications in view of the Davao City government’s policy against mining.