All mining operations in the country will undergo an assessment to determine if the work activity is doing good for the people and the environment or causing harm, the newly appointed chief of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said.
Also, mining companies must secure an International Standards Organization (ISO) certification.
"ISO 14001 is one way of saying responsible mining," DENR Secretary Gina Lopez said in her first press conference after the department was turnover to her by the former Secretary Ramon Paje on Friday.
The ISO 14001 standard is the most important within the ISO 14000 series. ISO 14001 specifies the requirements of an environmental management system (EMS) for small to large organizations. An EMS is a systemic approach to handling environmental issues within an organization.
The assessment will determine if mining operations are "... good to the people or are they killing the rivers, streams? Are they creating suffering to our farmers and fishermen? We have to evaluate it, but my stand on the common good is non-negotiable."
President Rodrigo Duterte, who was sworn into office as the 16the chief executive of the Philippines on Thursday, appointed Lopez last month. Duterte held his first Cabinet meeting also on Thursday.
During the Cabinet meeting, Duterte suggested an audit of existing mines.
High standards of operations
Mining companies must comply with very high standards of operations to serve the Filipino better, Lopez told reporters.
"They have to follow the law. That's what the President said, 'You must follow the law'," she said.
The DENR chief claimed that the people are poor in a large number of places where mining is active.
"In many areas, mining has adversely affected farmers and fishermen. So the companies have to act on this if they are really serving for the common good," Lopez said.
"You can't build an economy based on suffering. It should benefit all people," she emphasized.
The assessment of mining operations will take one month. Once the audit is complete, Lopez noted her position on irresponsible mining would remain firm.
"I'm open for anything but my stand for the benefit of our people is non-negotiable... "I'm not against mining but I'm against suffering," she said.
Lopez is a staunch environmental advocate. She supports the "Save Palawan Movement," which raised 10 million signatures to stop mining in several areas of the province.
She is also active in the rehabilitation of Pasig River, serving as chairperson of Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission and headed Bantay Kalikasan in 1987.
The mining industry is, of course, note excited by the pronouncements of the DENR secretary.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), the umbrella organization of mining companies, noted a new assessment will cause more delays in evaluating the requests of mining companies.
"The conduct of audit on mining operations is not really a new thing since the Aquino administration has been doing it since 2012," Ronald Recidoro, vice president for Legal and Policy of COMP, told the GMA News Online.
"We've been undergoing an audit for the last four years already, and the audit is being used as a reason for withholding the processing of permits. Hindi ba? So, we're just concerned that this audit, again, will lead to more delays in the processing of mining applications," Recidoro added.
He said the industry welcomes the recent statement of President Duterte on reducing the processing time and cutting the bureaucratic red tape in government offices. – VDS, GMA News