MGB wants review of 'no-go zones'

By Catherine N. Pillas, BusinessMirror

Posted at Aug 25 2014 07:53 AM | Updated as of Aug 25 2014 03:53 PM

MANILA - The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) is seeking a review of the areas where mining activities are banned, or the so-called no-go zones, amid the call of small-scale miners to exclude from the list the sites they are eyeing.

Leo Jasareno, MGB director, said during a meeting of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) on Friday that he advised that no-go zones must be validated on-site, after small-scale miners alleged there were inaccuracies made in the classification.

“They were complaining so the recommendation of the MGB is to conduct verification on the ground. If we say that a 500-hectare area is a no-go zone and is reserved for livestock development, we should make sure that the entire area is really for livestock development, “ Jasareno told reporters after the MICC meeting.

No-go zones are areas declared by the government as closed to mining, as per Executive Order (EO) 79, aimed at reforming policies in the mining sector for environmental protection and efficient use of resources.

Before the said EO was issued, no-go zones were limited to protected areas under the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act.

It has since been expanded to include tourism-development areas, critical areas as identified by the
Department of Environment and Natural Resources and prime agricultural lands.Four small-scale mining companies that applied for exploration permits in particular areas asked the MICC to have their areas exempted from the declared no-go zones, as stipulated in the integrated map of areas closed to mining.

The no-go zones have been identified in an integrated map crafted by the MICC, as directed by the EO 79.

The four companies are Surewin Mining Development Corp., Mount Baua Mining Corp., Ludgoron Mining Corp. and Itawes Mining Exploration Co.

The four have pending applications for exploration permits in areas in Cagayan and North Cotabato, ranging from 4,000 to 10,000 hectares.

As of May, the MGB has already received around 500 applications for exploration permits, and only two have been approved.

Jasareno said all existing and pending applications for exploration permits have been evaluated against the no-go zone map and 90 percent have been found within the confines of the declared closed areas.

The integrated map of areas closed to mining is already awaiting clearance for dissemination from President Aquino, but has been previously adopted by the council to facilitate the application and processing of exploration permits.

The MGB remains vigilant on mining firms’ compliance to environmental standards, as it also reported on Friday that out of 340 Mineral Processing Sharing Agreements (MPSAs) reviewed, 43 mining-rights holders covering 72,000 hectares of land were violating provisions on nonperforming mining tenements.

The violations include failure to implement a work-exploration program and expired exploration period for at least five years, among other cited infringements.

The said MPSAs have been recommended by the MGB for cancellation.

Up to Congress

ON the fiscal regime and mining revenue-sharing scheme with the government, Jasareno said the ball is now in the court of Congress as the MICC has already approved the scheme that includes 55 percent on net revenue, plus a percentage of excess profit, or 10 percent of gross revenue (whichever is higher) scheme in May, and is now awaiting endorsement from Malacañang to Congress.

According to documents from the MICC, the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office is now identifying possible sponsors of the bill in the Congress and Senate.