Guv cites ‘flaw in mining law amid ‘mineral exploration’ in Iloilo island

Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor, Jr.

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor

Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. said the local government should have been involved in the permit issuance in a mining company’s “mineral exploration” in Concepcion town, which he described as a “flaw” in the country’s Mining Act of 1995.

Defensor said that since the Pan de Azucar Island in Concepcion town is a natural resource of the province, both the provincial and local government should have the right to be consulted regarding potential mining activities in the area.

“The problem is waay na nagadiretso sa province. Waay man kita gusto nga mag layering but that is the natural resource of the province. Dapat at the first instance, kabalo na kita sina kag we will attend to that.

[The problem is that it does not go directly to us. We don’t want to engage in layering, but that is the province’s natural resource. We should have known that from the very beginning, and we will attend to that.]

Under the Mining Act, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources administers the mining industry.

It is the MGB that administers and disposes of mineral lands and resources through the grant of exploration permits (EP) and/or Mineral Agreements (MA) to duly qualified entities.

Meanwhile, the Small-Scale Mining Act places the issuance and monitoring of quarry resources permits and sand and gravel permits under the provincial or city mining regulatory board.

This, according to Defensor, is a “flaw” in the mining laws of the country.

Defensor called for a reevaluation and rationalization of the Mining Act, expressing the need for a thoughtful approach to mining activities in provinces due to their status as natural resources.

“It should be rationalized. We want a rationalization on the conduct of mining activities in the provinces […] Why? Because they are also natural resources of the province,” he said.

He expressed concern about the ongoing exploration activity in Concepcion island, noting that the province and local government unit (LGU) were not informed or consulted about it.

“Wala sang pormalidad nga nagahapit anay sa mga LGUs natun. Dapat may ara because we are charged with the management of our natural resources, we have our Provincial Government Environment and Natural Resources Office (PGENRO). Obligasyon ta ina,” he stressed.

[There is no formality to inform the LGUs. We should be at least informed we are charged with the management of our natural resources. We have our Provincial Government Environment and Natural Resources Office (PGENRO). That is our obligation.]

Defensor announced plans to convene a meeting with the LGU of Concepcion, MGB, PGENRO, and the mining company. However, there was no mention of the meeting’s timeline or other measures the province plans to take regarding the ongoing mining exploration.

The TVI Resource Development Philippines Inc. (TVIRD) has ongoing mineral exploration activities on the Pan de Azucar Island. TVIRD is the Philippine affiliate of TVI Pacific Inc., a Canadian resource company.

The recent transshipment of heavy mining equipment to the island has faced opposition from Concepcion town residents.

Concepcion Mayor Milliard Villanueva said TVIRD was granted an EP by the MGB.

With this permit, the mining company is allowed to search for mineral resources in methods such as test pitting, trenching, drilling, and shaft sinking, among other exploration methods to determine the feasibility of mining in the area.