The House of Representatives unanimously approved on third and final reading this week House Bill 7871, which seeks to declare Davao City a mining-free zone and penalize offenders.

All 204 House Members present during the plenary voting backed the bill principally authored by Rep. Alberto Ungab (3rd District, Davao City).

The bill mandates that all forms of mining operations and activities, whether large-scale or small-scale within Davao City’s jurisdiction shall be prohibited.

The provisions of Republic Act No. 7942, otherwise known as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995; RA 7076, otherwise known as the People’s Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991; and other laws, rules and regulations inconsistent with the Act shall have no application within the territorial jurisdiction of Davao City, the bill further provides.

The bill covers all mining operations and activities, including quarrying, within the territorial jurisdiction of Davao City.

Mining is referred to in the bill as the “extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth and shall include such mining activities as exploration, feasibility, development, utilization and processing, as well as quarry operations involving cement raw materials, marble, granite, sand and gravel construction aggregates and other resources.”

All valid and existing contracts, explorations, permits, licenses, technical agreements, and mineral production sharing agreements (MPSAs), in accordance with RA 7942, covering any area of Davao City at the date of the effectivity of the Act shall be recognized by the government and shall remain valid until the expiration or termination thereof.

Thereafter, no further extension or renewal shall be granted. Moreover, the government shall not issue new exploration permits nor enter into new mineral agreements or similar other agreements covering lands within the jurisdiction of Davao City.

At the date of effectivity of the Act, no exploration permit to conduct further exploration activities or an application for extension thereof shall be granted even during the lifetime of existing mining contracts, technical and financial assistance agreements, and MPSAs.

All small-scale mining contracts as enunciated in RA 7076 in Davao City shall hereby be cancelled upon the effectivity of the Act. Affected small-scale mining contractors have one year from the effectivity of the Act to undertake rehabilitation, regeneration and reforestation of mineralized areas, slope stabilization of mined out and tailing covered areas, watershed development and watershed preservation.

Existing quarry permits issued by the Davao City government at the time of the effectivity of the Act shall be recognized. Thereafter, quarry permits issued by the city mayor shall be reviewed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) after the applicant shall have complied with all the requirements as prescribed by the rules and regulations.  The maximum area which a qualified person may hold at any one time within the territorial jurisdiction of Davao City shall be five hectares.

Any person, natural or juridical, or any public officer who violates the provisions of the Act shall be penalized with imprisonment of six to 12 years and a fine of P1 million to P10 million.

An erring public officer shall also be dismissed from the service and perpetually disqualified from holding public office.

Ungab said deforestation and the risks attributed to mining will unnecessarily  endanger a world-class city such as Davao City since it is traversed by Davao River from the highlands to the lowlands.

Davao River is the biggest river in the city with more than 50 tributaries. Moreover, the fresh waters of Davao City is considered one of the best in the world, said Ungab.

“Hence, this must be protected from any form of pollution or degradation to include the surroundings and environs of its sources underneath or above the ground,” said Ungab.

“To prevent the occurrence of unwanted and unnecessary destruction in Davao City, mining operations in the city should be prohibited,” said Ungab.

The bill is also authored by Deputy Speaker Mylene Garcia , Rep. Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado (1st District, Bulacan), Deputy Majority Leader Arnel Ty, and Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate (Party-list, Bayan Muna)./ Rowena B. Bundang

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