A bill filed in the Lower House is seeking the immediate declaration of the Third Palawan District as a “mining-free zone” to protect and preserve its natural environment.
House Bill No. 5597, which was filed by Palawan Rep. Gil Acosta last May 9, seeks the proclamation of the province’s third district as a mining-free zone to avert threats of forest destruction and prevent causing siltation on major water sources.
The district is composed of the capital city of Puerto Princesa and Aborlan, the narrowest municipality located in southern Palawan.
In an early Saturday morning Kapihan here, Acosta said while mining provides job opportunities for some residents, the degree of the damage it causes to the land, the livelihood of farmers and the general well-being of Palaweños, has become exceptionally alarming.
“I asked the MGB (Mining and Geosciences Bureau) and the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) to spare the Third Palawan District from proposed mining operations because there is already mining in the southern part of the province. Spare Puerto Princesa and Aborlan already,” he said.
He added that the proposal for his district to be a mining-free zone was also upon the encouragement of Mindanao representatives.
“No more additional mining, let’s just encourage investments on tourism and agriculture,” Acosta said, adding he expects its presentation to the plenary of the Lower House before the end of the year.
Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) regional director Roland de Jesus, meanwhile, confirmed that he had indeed met with Acosta in a committee on environment meeting.
“The pros and cons of the law are for the committee to discuss, what we did in in the meeting was to present the mineral potential of the areas. Before they decide the law, the economic potential in the areas should be taken into consideration also,” De Jesus said Sunday in a phone call.
In Aborlan, there are at least seven mining claims, one of which is at Long Point, Barangay Aporawan by Berong Nickel Corporation (BNC).
BNC is engaged in the exploration, development, and mining of mineral properties in the Philippines. It holds interest in an exploration permit, which covers an area of approximately 1,069 hectares, situated in the municipalities of Quezon and Aborlan.
Under the bill, all forms of mining activity will be prohibited in the jurisdiction of the Third Palawan District.
This includes “valuable minerals and other geological materials, excluding gravel and sand marble, inclusive of mining activities as exploration, feasibility, development, utilizations and processing.”
Any person who violates any of the provisions of the Act shall, upon conviction, be punished by imprisonment of not less than six years and one day but not more than 12 years, or a fine of PHP100,000 but not more than PHP500,000, or both.
The bill furthered that if the offense is committed by a corporation, partnership, association or any other juridical entity, the penalty will be imposed on the president, managing director, partner or chief operating officer.
Their license to operate shall be cancelled and revoked permanently, and the proponents will no longer be allowed to operate similar establishments in a different name or location.
“No more new mining operations, let’s protect the Third Palawan District,” he said, adding his proposed Act is now in the Lower House’ Committee of Natural Resources for discussion.
In southern Palawan, the mining companies operating are CitiNickel Mines and Development Corporation (CMDC) in Narra and Sofroñio Española, Berong Nickel Corporation (BNC) in Quezon, the Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation (RTNMC) and Coral Bay Nickel Corporation (CBNC) in Bataraza, and the beleaguered Ipilan Nickel Corporation (INC) in Brooke’s Point.
Aborlan is a first class municipality in of Palawan, lying in the vast plain between the Sulu Sea and the mountains. It is located 69 km south of Puerto Princesa City.
When former president Benigno Aquino III signed the law that created the Third Palawan District in 2012, Aborlan was pulled out from the second Palawan District.