The move to amend the l987 Constitution for the adoption of a federal system of government will provide an opportunity to review and modify the country’s mining policy, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said Sunday.
In a press statement, he said this review is needed to protect the environment and welfare of the people as laws and rules are liberalised to lure foreign and local investors into the mining industry.
Pimentel said Joint Senate Resolution 10, which embodies the federalism proposal, not only requires the upgrading of industry practices and safety standards that mining firms must comply with but also calls for a review of existing agreements and contracts involving the utilisation of mineral and other natural resources.
“Based on Joint Resolution 10, the executive branch may enter into mining agreements with firms according to the conditions provided by the Constitution and by law. But the agreements must be subjected to Senate confirmation before implementation and the mining firms must follow the best international practices,” he said.
Pimentel said the opening up of more mineral-rich areas in various parts of the country—in line with government policy to make mining a major engine in spurring economic growth—has caused restiveness among the people in the affected communities due to the deleterious consequences of free-wheeling or indiscriminate mining activities.
As a result of the December, 2004 decision of the Supreme Court overturning its earlier decision declaring the Mining Act of l995 as unconstitutional, he said the rights of foreigners investing in the mining industry have been broadened and in effect, they may now “fully own and operate mining firms.”
The senator from Mindanao said the controversial high court decision also set forth a hitherto unheard of principle by recognising the President’s “full control” of mining operations.
“I do not see that principle justified by the provisions of the 1987 Constitution nor by existing legislation. It looks like the Supreme Court engaged in an unwarranted act of judicial legislation,” he said.
Because of that folly, Pimentel said a non-government organisation called Defend the Patrimony, warned: “The world’s largest mining firms-many of which are notorious in other parts of the globe-will bring this country into a state of calamity and will unleash an environmental tsunami that would engulf the people in a tide of unparalleled hardship.”