The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)—through its Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB)—has remained proactive in promoting responsible mining and disaster preparedness amid the COVID-19 pandemic and powerful typhoons that hit the country during last quarter of 2020.

“We have faced a lot of challenges this year, especially during the last quarter. A series of typhoons hit parts of our country triggering massive flooding and lahar flow that led to the loss of life and damage to property and natural resources,” DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said.

He added: “However, we in the Department, together with MGB and all the concerned agencies were proactive in finding solutions to these problems. We assure you that we will continue to exert the needed effort to prevent and mitigate natural disasters.”

During the year, MGB investigated mining and quarry activities within hazard-prone areas and closed down illegal mining operations in the country during the recent months.

The bureau coordinated with national government agencies and concerned local government units to look into and address the destruction in flood- and landslide-prone areas to prevent disasters from happening again.

Separate investigations were conducted in Marikina City and the provinces of Albay and Rizal to evaluate whether mining and quarry activities contributed to massive flooding during the typhoons.

Cimatu also said that prior to these developments, the DENR has already been monitoring the contracts/permits of mining companies and operators to ensure compliance to mining laws, rules, and regulations.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, MGB conducted virtual audit and monitoring of the mining activities based on submitted reports and real-time photos/videos from its regional offices.

A total of 680 mining contracts/permits either under exploration, development, utilization/production and including those under rehabilitation period were monitored/audited for compliance to terms and conditions.

The MGB also strengthened the promotion of a responsible and sustainable mining industry to provide direct and indirect employment, and to generate revenues through mining project developments. This initiative aims to counter the effects of the pandemic to revenue, collection of taxes, employment, social development in impact communities, environmental protection, and allied industries.

Before the onset of the typhoons, MGB has already updated its geo-hazard maps with a scale of 1:10,000, and conducted vulnerability and risk assessments (VRA) for 214 cities and municipalities across the country.

Assessments on ground subsidence for 22 cities and municipalities were also administered by the bureau. Around 101 local governments were assessed of their groundwater resources and vulnerability.

Moreover, the MGB has directed its regional offices to allow mining companies to realign the unutilized funds from the Social Development and Management Program (SDMP) to assist host and neighboring communities affected by COVID-19.

As of August 7, 2020, around P380 million was used to procure personal protective equipment, medical supplies, goods, and grocery supplies for the beneficiaries. A total of 297,491 medical frontliners/individuals and 1,099,090 families benefited from the SDMP realignment.

In order to aid in the recovery of the country’s economy post-COVID-19, the mining contractors/permit holders were instructed to establish an additional bamboo plantation equivalent to 10 percent of their declared final mining area, bringing the total target of bamboo plantations to at least 20 percent.

Cimatu has previously directed the mining companies to establish and maintain bamboo plantation equivalent to 10 percent of their mined-out areas. ###