By Madelaine B. Miraflor
Environment Chief Roy Cimatu took the similar path as his forerunner Regina Paz Lopez, ordering the miners to put in more money in biodiversity conservation. Only this time, they might actually take it more seriously and comply.
Cimatu said over the weekend that he wants mining companies to integrate biodiversity conservation into their operations as part of their adherence to the principle of responsible mining being espoused by the Duterte administration.
“Responsible mining companies should seek not merely to minimize and mitigate but, where possible, to enhance the biodiversity in areas where they operate,” Cimatu said.
During her stint as the secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Lopez spent so much time talking about biodiversity conservation, saying she preferred billions worth of investments to go to biodiversity than in the mining sector.
Yet, the focus that time was put mostly on her crackdown against mining companies, which eventually prompted the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) — comprised of the country’s largest mining operators — to oppose her appointment.
Cimatu, for his part, just reiterated his unwavering support for President Rodrigo Duterte’s resolve to prioritize environmental protection and his non-negotiable policy against irresponsible mining as he announced during his second State of the Nation Address (SONA).
To recall, Cimatu’s appointment as the DENR chief had been a breath of fresh air for COMP members, who felt unfairly battered during Lopez’s term.
Some miners were even quoted saying before that they prefer “anyone but Lopez” to take the helm at the DENR.
Cimatu’s statement was made in the wake of an international study, which led to the discovery of new mammal species in Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines.
In the study by the Field Museum of Chicago (FMC), it introduced 56 newly discovered mammal species in the country, 93 percent of them are found nowhere else in the world. It was conducted by a team of Filipino and American researchers.
“The study has arguably amplified the President’s call to mining companies to strictly comply with existing rules and regulations,” Cimatu pointed out.
He added that taking a proactive stance on biodiversity conservation efforts being implemented by the DENR would “serve well the mining sector in showing its sincerity in its response to the President’s call and goodwill beyond the immediate host communities where they operate.”
“Integrating biodiversity conservation into their mining project cycle would surely help mining companies restore, possibly to near-original condition, mining-affected forests in the country,” Cimatu said.
He said the mining sector will benefit immensely in giving a positive image to the general public as such move would “amplify their efforts” to reduce biodiversity loss and provides significant contributions to national and global conservation initiatives.
Before leaving the DENR, Lopez alloted bulk of DENR’s R29-billion budget to biodiversity conservation efforts like massive reforestation and climate change initiatives.
In total, the Philippines has 228 key biodiversity areas (KBA) located in various regions. These KBAs are home to 855 globally important species, including those freshly discovered.
Mainstreaming biodiversity into the sectors of energy and mining is a major agenda for discussion in the upcoming Meeting of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Body of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UN-CBD).
Director Mundita Lim of the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) was elected by the Conference of the Parties of the UN-CBD last December, 2016 to chair the said subsidiary body meeting set for December of this year in Montreal, Canada.