DENR to host forum on biodiversity, mining

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is hosting a biodiversity and mining forum with focus on the issues of sustainability, social justice and equity on the extraction and use of natural resources for economic needs.

Slated for tomorrow, April 19, at the DENR Social Hall in Quezon City, the event dubbed as "Forum on Biodiversity and Mining: The Way Forward" will bring together around 250 participants from various offices and units of the DENR, including field offices, and representatives of non-government organizations.

DENR Secretary Gina Lopez is expected to welcome the participants and guests, and give the opening message.

Lopez, a long-time environment advocate, has made it clear that she is for biodiversity conservation and her commitment is to protect natural habitats and wild flora and fauna across the country.

The environment chief also clarified that she is not against mining but to the suffering of people in mining communities.

She said irresponsible mining does not bring social justice, which is the heart and soul of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

Invited resource speakers include William Holden, an associate professor of geography at the University of Calgary in Alberta Canada. He will discuss the topic of mining and natural hazard vulnerability in the Philippines.

Other resource speakers and topics at the forum are Dr. Edwino Fernando of UP Los Baños Department of Forest and Biological Sciences (phytomining and terrestrial ecosystem) and Dr. Rex Victor Cruz of UPLB Institute of Renewable Natural Resources (watershed ecosystem);

Environmental lawyer Antonio A. Oposa, Jr. will give a video message on environmental law in the Philippines.

The mining sector is currently faced with the situation where there is a growing awareness on the importance of preserving the country's rich biodiversity.

Many have raised concerns on whether mining and biodiversity conservation can co-exist and if mining should be stopped to preserve the natural resources.

The upcoming forum conforms with Section 38 of the 2017 General Appropriations Act, which mandates all government agencies, and local government units to "ensure that protection of biological diversity is integrated and mainstreamed into their development programs and projects.” ### 


Presentations during the DENR Forum on Biodiversity and Mining (April 19, 2017)

Lopez vows continued help to Limay coal ash spill victims

Environment Secretary Gina Lopez has vowed not to let up her efforts to help residents living near a coal-fired power plant operating inside the refinery of oil giant Petron Corp. in Limay town in Bataan province.

Lopez made the assurance after Limay residents trooped to the DENR central office in Quezon City to complain anew of the ash residue of SMC Consolidated Power Corp. (SMCCPC) which made some of them ill.

"Trust me, I'm not gonna let you down," Lopez told the residents during a dialogue held inside her office.

Officials of the DENR's Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), Petron and SMCCPC were also present during the dialogue. Both Petron and SMCCPC are subsidiaries of San Miguel Corp., one of the country's most diversified and biggest conglomerates.

The residents complained of water pollution, dust, foul odor and noise coming from the refinery complex. They also traced the frequent respiratory illnesses suffered by many of them to the coal plant within the complex.

According to the residents, their health conditions have deteriorated since coal plant started operation in 2013. They averred that their cough, colds and asthma have become persistent despite regular checkups and medications.

The residents also cited a study by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources on the presence of hazardous substances like cadium and mercury in the fish caught in the coast of Limay.

During the dialogue, Lopez told plant officials to address the concerns of the residents and "fix the way they operate."

She also emphasized to them that the residents themselves are not opposed to their operation and all they were asking was for issues about their health and livelihood be resolved as soon as possible.

"You have to find a way to operate which doesn't cause suffering," Lopez said, addressing the plant officials.

She added: "The coal plant has really done bad to the people's health. We will not allow suffering to go on."

Lopez, meanwhile, instructed EMB officials to review the emission standards provided under the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999.

"We have to raise the standard, improve the emission standard. That's all," Lopez said.

It will be recalled that a series of ambient air sampling for total suspended particulates and sulfur dioxide has been conducted by the EMB within and near the refinery complex. The results were all within the National Ambient Air Quality Guideline Values. ### 

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