Editor's Note: In an earlier version of this story, Platinum Development Corporation was in the list of companies with mining operations to be closed, based on a DENR list. The company, however, was excluded in the final list later posted on the DENR website. We have made the necessary correction.
MANILA, Philippines (6th UPDATE) – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) announced the closure of 23 mining operations in several areas in the country on Thursday, February 2.
"We have decided to close any kind of mining operation in functional watersheds," Environment Secretary Gina Lopez said at a press conference on Thursday.
The environment department released what was supposed to be final list of its mining audit at 4:45 pm Thursday, which includes Ore Asia Mining and Development Corporation in Bulacan, and Benguet Corporation, the country's oldest mining company.
Ore Asia Mining and Development Corporation was earlier listed under suspended mining firms.
Below is the final list of mining firms whose operations were ordered closed in the following areas:
Surigao del Norte
The environment secretary said these firms can still appeal the decision before the Office of the President.
The DENR had given the closure order two days ago, so Lopez said these firms should not be operating unless they appeal the decision.
"[The] closure becomes final when the President says it is," Lopez told reporters. She said that in closing down these mines, she wants to make a statement that "water is important."
She also insisted that a green economy actually creates more jobs.
"When I was in Marrakesh, what they showed very clearly is that when you go environmental, it's not really a job loss, it’s a transformation of the kind of job you have," Lopez explained.
She added: "It means transforming the way we uplift our economy…. An area development approach, with the benefit of the people living there as the prime reason for being, is our way out of poverty. I'm convinced about this, and I feel doing it this way will give us better GDP, it will even jack up the stock market, but we got to do it the right way, and we have to make the right choices."
While talking about the mines in Dinagat Islands, Lopez blamed the government and the DENR itself for not helping the communities affected by the mining operations.
She repeated this when asked why she decided to close the mines immediately instead of imposing fines and penalties first.
"Because as a matter of principle, you shouldn't have mines in a watershed. With a suspension, they can operate again, but I don't think they should ever operate a mine in a watershed."
Asked why these mining operations were approved by the DENR's Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in the first place, Lopez said it's the MGB's mistake.
"They made a mistake, and if they made a mistake, I'm not going to continue it….I have my own principles and my own understanding of the Constitution, and if somebody has made a mistake in the past, I'm not going to follow that mistake, I would rather rectify it," she said.
On Thursday, Lopez also announced the suspension of the following mining firms:
DENR deferred its decision on one mining firm, the Filiminera Resources Corporation. – Rappler.com
Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.