Osmeña calls for Senate probe of Philex mine leak

by Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 05 2013 05:27 PM | Updated as of Feb 06 2013 01:28 AM

MANILA - Sen. Sergio Osmeña III on Tuesday called for a Senate investigation on the massive spill at the Padcal mine of Philex Mining Corp. in Benguet last year.

In a privilege speech, Osmeña pointed out that more than 20 million metric tons of tailings have spilled as of September 2012, affecting the livelihood and water resources of thousands in northern and central Luzon.

"We owe it to our people, the country and ourselves, to know the truth about the massive leak, its impacts to the affected communities, the local government units, and our ecosystem," he said.

Osmeña said various non-government organizations had asked him to call for a probe, including the Climate Change Congress of the Philippines, the Cordillera People's Alliance, the Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment, the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas, and the Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura.

The senator added that until now, there are no clear government findings on the toxicity and accurate volume of the leak, and its impact on the communities around the mine.

"Therefore, in the interest of transparency, fairness and justice, I strongly and respectfully request that the appropriate committees of the Senate initiate a proper inquiry, in aid of legislation, even while the Senate is on recess," Osmeña said.

Osmeña's call for a probe has been referred to the Senate committee on environment and natural resources.

Philex Mining has already been fined P1 billion by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources over the tailings spill. The DENR has said the amount Philex will be paying will be remitted in the Mine Wastes and Tailings Reserve Fund, which will be used to compensate damages caused by the tailings leak.

Aside from the monetary fine, Philex has also been required to submit a rehabilitation plan for the affected areas. 

Operations at the Padcal mine has been suspended since August 1 last year due to the leak incident.