Atro Mining confident DENR’s reply will enlighten city gov’t PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 12 May 2014 11:11

An official of Atro Mining-Vitali,Inc. (AMVI) is confident that the reply of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to the query of the City Government will “enlighten and hopefully usher in a better understanding between the company and the city”.

AMVI Vice President for Legal, Atty. Pol Redublo, sounded his optimism after the City Government has sought the guidance of the DENR to bring light and resolve which legal authority will be followed for the current mining issue as according to Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar, there is a seeming conflict between the policies of the national and local government.

“We are confident that our company threads on the side of the law. There should always be a supremacy of National laws over local laws.,” Atty. Redublo said.

Memorandum No. 181 of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) dated November 8, 2012 directed all local government unit officials to comply with Section 12 of the Executive Order No. 79.

Section 12 of the Executive Order No. 79 directed the DILG and LGUs to “ensure that the exercise of the latter’s powers and functions is consistent with and conform to regulations, decisions, and policies already promulgated and taken by the National Government relating to the conservation, development, management, and proper utilization of the State’s mineral resources particularly RA No. 7942 (The Philippine Mining Law) and its Implementing Rules and Regulations”.

Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar on May 4 said “we have elevated this issue for DENR’s guidance to us” as she called for the careful review of the policies and procedures regarding the mining issue.

Upon the recommendation of the Office of the Environment and Natural Resources (OCENR), the City Legal Office, and the City Planning Office, the local government decided not to grant a business permit to AMVI as the proposed mining activities of the company will be carried out on a proposed watershed area.

“We recommended that no business permit should be granted to Atro. The stand of the City Government is that there should be no mining within the identified or proposed watershed area,” City Legal Officer  Jesus Carbon said.

According to Redublo, the watershed issue raised by Judge Carbon is actually a non-issue as the city’s act is only a proposal to the National Government, and does not confer with it the right to withdraw the area from mining activities.  “The agency primarily responsible for the conservation, management, development and proper use of the State’s mineral resources including those in the reservations, watershed areas and lands of the public domain belong to DENR, Atty. Redublo added.” “The exploration, development and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State,” Atty. Redublo further added.”

The statement of Atty. Carbon that there is no need for a proclamation in order for an area to be identified and afforded the same protection as a watershed is inappropriate and utter defiance of the provisions under P.D. No. 705 (Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines) and R.A. No. 7585 (NIPAS Law).

It bears pointing out that Judge Carbon, in its efforts to muddle the whole issue, raised inconsistencies in what AMVI will do in Vitali. He said that “While AMVI has stated that they will only be mining for iron ore, their prospectus reveal that the company will also mine for gold and silver.”

According to Mr. Leo Sosa, AMVI VP/Resident Manager, “it is true that in HRMTI’s application for MPSA, it stated in minerals to be explored “iron ore, copper, gold, silver and other minerals”.  “But what is delineated by AMVI, applied for DMPF and approved by MGB for development and commercial productions is only iron ore, Mr. Sosa added.”

It is true that AMVI previously proposed to Zamboanga City Government officials the possibility of establishing an Iron Smelting Plant at Taguite area in order to process its iron ore and convert it into steel billets as promoted by the National Government for value adding, but unfortunately, permits were denied outright, Atty. Redublo said. The company does not have any plan of establishing a steel mill.

Atty. Redublo, however, pointed out that the permit AMVI sought from the city was not for the conduct of mining operations but just “forour company to establish our head office in the city.”

“We wish to re-iterate that the decision to establish our head office in Zamboanga City underlines our commitment to good corporate citizenship and also our desire to ensure that all taxes due and payable will be paid here in the city in order to maximize the benefits that mining operations can give to the city,” the company VP for Legal said.

He was quick, however, to differentiate the application for Mayor’s/Business Permit from acquiring a permit to operate a large scale mining operations.

“The Mayor’s/Business Permit that will be issued by the City Mayor of Zamboanga is only for the establishment of our business office.  It should not be construed as tantamount to issuing AMVI its permit to operate a large scale mining operations in Vitali as there are different requirements for the approval of large scale mining operations as set forth in Sec. 30 Declaration of a Mining Project Feasibility (DMPF) of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Mining Act of 1995,” Atty. Redublo explained.  The issuance of permit to operate large scale mining operations is exclusively within the authority and power of the MGB, not with the City Mayor of Zamboanga.

The DENR had granted Hard Rock Mineral Trading, Inc. (HRMTI) the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) through Sec. Angelo T. Reyes last June 8, 2007 denominated as MPSA No. 237-2007-IX covering an area of 2,007.3084 hectares located at Upper Tagpangi, Vitali, this city.

Atty. Redublo pointed out that the issuance by the National Government of MPSA to HRMTI is valid, as it has complied with all the legal requirements set forth by R. A. No. 7942.  It was an exercise of authority and jurisdiction conferred upon to the DENR Secretary by the Constitution and the law.  “The official acts of the DENR Secretary as a public officer enjoy the presumption of regularity,” Atty. Redublo continued.

On August, 31, 2011, HRMTI entered into an Exclusive Mines Operating Agreement (EMOA) with AMVI, registered the EMOA at MGB-IX last September 12, 2011 and obtained approval by Dir. Leo L. Jasareno of MGB-CO last December 17, 2011.

The right to transfer and/or enter into an Operating Agreement is expressly allowed by law as stated in Sec. 30 of R.A. No. 7942 and in the applicable DENR Department Administrative Orders which provide its IRR, that “Memorandum of Agreement/Option Agreement or Operating Agreement and other similar form of Agreement are allowed subject to their registration with MGB Central Office and Regional Office concerned and the approval of the MGB Director upon evaluation and recommendation by the RO concerned.” This right is likewise provided in the provisions of the MPSA signed by HRMTI and the Philippine Government.

“Be that as it may, AMVI is now the approved operator of HRMTI”, Atty. Redublo added.

“All the issues regarding watershed, non-consultation, legality of issuance of MPSA and HRMTI’s act of entering into Operating Agreement with AMVI raised by City Legal Officer Jesus Carbon were aptly answered and belied by the Joint Committee Report of the Committee on Natural Resources and Environmental Protection and the Committee on Ordinances and Resolutions in their Reports, Findings and Recommendations on the issue of mining in Vitali by HRMTI and AMVI released last 29 April 2014, Atty. Redublo added.”

“From where we stand, we are of the opinion that the DENR will affirm the validity of our claim and our right to conduct mining operations in Vitali.  Hopefully the Mayor’s query to the DENR Secretary will set things in its proper perspective.” Atty. Redublo ended.