Environment Secretary Gina Lopez on Tuesday strongly prodded members of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) to ensure that social justice will be highly considered in its review of the performance of all existing mines in the country, including the 26 mining operations ordered closed or suspended by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
"As long as there's commitment to social justice, I have no problem with that," Lopez said during the second meeting of the recently convened MICC in Pasig City.
The MICC, co-chaired by Lopez and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, is set to form five technical teams to look into the impacts of mining operations in terms of technical, legal, social, environmental and economic aspects.
Lopez said she wanted the members of each team mentored by experts who are committed to social justice.
"Before they go out I would like that they have an orientation from the far-excellent people from the fields that they are working in, who have a commitment to social justice so that they do whatever they do in the field of social justice," Lopez said.
She added: "If we are going there to make our people's lives better, only good things can come out of that. This will put MICC in a whole new arena."
During the first MICC meeting, it was agreed upon that the council's findings will be purely recommendatory and the focus of the review will be on the mining operations and not on the DENR decision to close down 22 mines and suspend four others due to serious environmental violations.
The MICC also decided to create a recruitment committee in charge of selecting the members of the technical teams.
Members of the technical teams must not be employed in any capacity, direct or indirect, by any operating mine in the country, and must not be a member of any anti-mining organization.
They should also have at least 10 years applied exploration, mining, milling or environmental and social development experience; and must have relevant professional license or in lieu, at least 20 years relevant experience.
Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin said the final list of the review teams is expected to be finished next week.
For her part, DENR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Maria Paz Luna said the environment department is putting the mining industry forward so that "it will not cause social injustice."
"The MICC was created to look for policies that will make it better for the state and the Filipino people," Luna said.
Moreover, Luna said the review teams will conduct a "fact-finding and research type of activity" that will look at the mining operations and not at the results of the DENR review of mining operations.
Also present in the MICC meeting were Vice Governor Antonio Albano of Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP), and representatives from the Department of Justice, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the National Economic and Development Authority, Office of the Solicitor General and Office of the President. #