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New MGB Chief vows crackdown vs. irresponsible mining

The Environment department's Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) will intensify its bid to curb irresponsible mining nationwide in accordance with President Rodrigo R. Duterte's thrust to protect and conserve the environment.

New MGB Director Mario Luis Jacinto assured such action, noting the agency will look into mining operators' compliance with applicable laws, regulations and standards set by the government.

"Those who violated the law must be held accountable," he said.

He said mining is responsible only if development of the country's mineral resources will be based on technical feasibility, environmental sustainability, social acceptability and financial viability.

Absence of any of such criteria won't render a miningproject responsible, he said.

MGB data as of late June 2016 show 44 operating metallic mines in the country during the first quarter of this year.

The data also show that during the same period, mining nationwide contributed PHP21.7 billion or 0.7 percent to Philippine GDP (gross domestic product) and generated nearly PHP302 million in taxes, fees and royalties.

In line with President Duterte's thrust towards responsible mining, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Memorandum Order 2016-01 set the nationwide audit covering all operating minesand mines under suspended and/or care and maintenance status.

Memorandum Order 2016-01 also set a moratorium on approval of new mining projects in the country.

DENR already commenced the month-long audit this August.

Mining firms face sanctions if they are unable to pass the audit, said MGB mine safety chief Rodolfo Velasco.

Suspension and fines are among sanctions that can be imposed on audit-failing mining firms, he added.

"The sanctions will be on a case-to-case basis," he said.

He said results of the audit will determine sanctions the government will impose.

Duterte's Presidential Directive 002, Series of 2016, designated Jacinto as the new MGB director serving in a concurrent capacity as Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) undersecretary.

The Chief Executive ordered Jacinto to perform functions as provided in Republic Act No. 7942 (Philippine Mining Act) "and all other laws, rules and regulations."

"Furthermore, he shall have the authority and supervision over the organization and operations of Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) for the purpose of overseeing the effective and successful implementation of its programs, activities and projects," the President said.

Jacinto shall also assist Environment Chief Gina Lopez "by ensuring that all actions pertaining to permits, clearances, certificates, personnel recruitment, movements and appointments relating to MGB and EMB functions that are authorized to be signed, issued by or delegatedto the DENR secretary are thoroughly reviewed and evaluated by his office for consideration and final disposition of the DENR secretary," President Duterte ordered further.

According to MGB, Jacinto is a licensed geologist who started out with this agency in August 1977.

He was assigned in Mindanao and later served there as senior geologist, MGB Regional Technical Director from 1987 to 1990, then DENR Regional Executive Director from 1990 to 1992, MGB said.

At this week's environment summit in Mindanao, Jacinto assured his independence from mining companies and other business entities.

"Mining companies can't buy me -- no one can and the people of Davao know that," he said.

He committed pursuing a social justice legacy anchored on efforts for God and country.

MGB said Jacinto resigned from government in 1992 to join the private sector.

The agency added that from 2001 to 2010, however, he served full-time as City Planning and Development Coordinator in Davao City under then Mayor Duterte. (PNA)

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