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Sen. Gordon seeks stiffer fines vs. erring mining firms

GMA News Online logo GMA News Online 1/12/2018 Sollorano, Vic
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Senator Richard Gordon has filed a bill seeking higher fines for erring mining companies, ranging from P500,000 to P2 million to be shouldered completely by violators of environmental standards.

Gordon filed in December Senate Bill No. 1633, which seeks to increase the amount of fines originally stipulated under Presidential Decree 1586, or the Environmental Impact Statement Law.

The original contents of the decree, signed by the late former President Ferdinand Marcos in 1978, provided for a maximum penalty of P50,000. It covered the projects of all government agencies and corporations and private companies and entities “which significantly affect the quality of the environment.”

The bill seeks to suspend or cancel a violator’s Environmental Compliance Certificate for going against the standards, rules and regulations issued by the National Environmental Protection Council.

“We have to raise the penalty for mining violations. The fines provided for in Presidential Decree 1586 have to be updated because the maximum penalty of P50,000 (and in some instances, a paltry P25,000) is not realistic anymore,” Gordon said in a statement.

“This is why I am also proposing that the violator be made to shoulder the full cost of the rehabilitation, reparation or restoration of the damage caused by their violation,” he said.

The bill was supposedly filed in line with a recommendation of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee in a report after an inquiry into destructive mining operations or illegal excavations in Zambales.

Gordon, who hails from the province, sits as chairman of the Senate panel.

An intelligence report confirmed in 2016 that rocks and soil from “literal land-grabbing” operations were being used by China for reclamation projects in the disputed West Philippine Sea.

For all of “indiscriminate” mining’s potential for environmental degradation, the business escaped Gordon’s full disapproval. He noted that mining spurs the economy through job generation and farm-to-market road and infrastructure creation and called for responsible mining.

“We do not have to burn the whole house to catch a rat. If a commercial plane crashes because the airline did not follow maintenance standards, do we ban the entire aviation industry from flying the skies? If buses and jeepneys figure in road mishaps because of lack of discipline among drivers or lack of proper maintenance of the vehicles, do we prevent the entire land transportation industry from plying the streets?” he said in the statement.

“No, because these industries are crucial to our everyday lives. We stop the violators, impose stricter regulations and ensure full compliance,” the senator said. —Nicole-Anne Lagrimas/VDS, GMA News

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