BAGUIO CITY – Environment Secretary Ma. Antonia ‘Toni’ Yulo-Loyzaga underscored that the government supports responsible mining in the context of the country’s inclusive, resilient and sustainable development.
Secretary Loyzaga, who was the guest of honor and speaker during the 68th Annual Mine Safety and Environment Conference held at the CAP Cultural and Trade Center in Camp John hay, Secretary Loyzaga pointed out that minerals are part of the peoples daily lives and that they are used in one way or the other across industries.
She admitted that the mining sector had its highs and lows over the past decade but policy and environment had somewhat affected the industry whether good or bad.
The DENR official claimed that minerals are needed to build an industrialized society while strategic minerals such as nickel and copper are also needed to transition to clean energy to mitigate climate change towards a low carbon future.
In the context of the Philippine Development Plan, Loyzaga emphasized that responsible mining deals with regulatory compliance that goes beyond the number of trees that were planted and the number of people that were employed. It begins with the mindset that specifically addresses resilience of people and plant within the core business values cycle. It is a commitment not only to deliver profit to the companies but to be an agent of ecological integrity through environmental improvement, to be a champion for social progress and empowerment. It is a mindset of constant progress in all aspects of triple battlelines that ensures no one is left behind.
She asserted that it is now a challenge to the mining industry stakeholders to operate their mines beyond regulatory compliance in order for the sector to be a critical force for social, economic and environmental change in the country.
According to her, the Annual National Mine Safety and Environment Conference embodies ideals as stakeholders gather to share best practices and recognize companies that have attained a level of proficiency in environment protection and mine safety.
Further, she stipulated that the event also reminds the stakeholders that they are doing their best not to win awards but because they have committed to the aforesaid principles and values as part of their core responsibility.
Secretary Loyzaga cited the Pusong Minero campaign of the Philippine Mine Safety and Environment Association (PMSEA), a volunteer organization that is a frontrunner in occupational health and safety, sound environmental management and social development, where mining companies led their expertise in search and rescue operations for calamity victims which is yet another community service that goes beyond legal compliance.
As an advocate for climate and disaster resilience, she stipulated that the said endeavor will not merely continue to respond to emergencies but invest in climate and disaster preparedness and disaster prevention before the hard actually strikes.
“Once we understand what we wish to achieve, we hope to be able to simply our approach in managing resource development if that is possible. The mitigation hierarchy that is used in many biodiversity projects in collaboration with the mining sector is a good place to start. The framework is quite basic as it starts with avoidance of all possible environmental impacts. If this cannot be done, then the next option could be to minimize these impacts to a minimum level. Again, if that option is not available, jointly, the option is to rehabilitate all the disturbed areas and finally, for truly unavoidable destructions we provide for and invest in offsets or improvements in adjacent high value ecosystems and areas left. This is the practice that has begun globally. I hope to be able to engage with you in developing this framework,” Loyzaga told the mining industry stakeholders.
She insinuated that the said framework is applicable to mining operations that had been successful and the global examples will show the way. Strategically, the concerned stakeholders and the government can co-create solutions within the concept and framework together.
The DENR Secretary explained that the priority program of the agency that the mining industry may be interested to know is the natural resources geo-special database purposely to have a single database where all the information related to the country’s natural resources will be inputted.
In turn, the mining industry will be able to determine which MPSAs are not fully utilized, what areas are covered by small-scale mining, which development areas overlap with the critical ecosystems and protected areas and quantifying the reforestation efforts of mining companies within MPSAs over time.
Moreover, she said that the location and characterization of water resources will be important in enhancing water security for the country which is a perfect example of the old adage what is not measured cannot be managed, nor can it be valued, nor can it be treasured.