Tree cutting, mining, and tree planting

Reposting a portion of an article by Dr. Emil Javier in Manila Bulletin last June 3, 2017.

Making sense of our tree-cutting laws

…The recent public outcry over the reported massive indiscriminate cutting of trees by a nickel ore mining company in Brooke’s Point in Palawan is symptomatic of the problem.

Initial reports indicated that the mining company felled around 7000 trees on 30 hectares of land which presumably is part of the company’s approved mining reservation covering 2,835 hectares, of which 260 hectares have been initially declared as minable.

The timing of the mining company is terrible, so soon after the acrimonious non- confirmation of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Regina Lopez, but DENR should have been more forthright. Nickel ores are shallow deposits and therefore open pit mining is the suitable mode of extraction. Tunneling, the other mode of mining, is unsafe because the overburden covering the shallow deposits is thin and therefore prone to collapse. DENR knew all along that the company was engaged in open pit mining. It goes without saying that the vegetation, including all trees, on the surface of the excavation will have to go. Clear cutting should therefore not come as a surprise most especially to DENR which issued the open pit mining permit in the first place.

One is reminded of the “pound of flesh” contract, Antonio, a merchant of Venice, entered into with a Jew money lender, Shylock, for the 3000 ducats Antonio borrowed for his friend Bassanio. Impoverished Bassanio needed money to help him impress and win the hand of the rich heiress Portia.

Shakespeare’s play “The Merchant of Venice” built around the pound of flesh story is related to the unfolding mining contract imbroglio in Palawan not because the contract is cruel and oppressive but because the contract is un-enforceable the way it was constructed. For indeed how can Shylock exact a pound of flesh from the Venetian merchant Antonio for failure to repay the loan on time without shedding a drop of Christian blood! In the same manner, how can a mining company legitimately engage in open pit mining without clear cutting the existing natural vegetation?  Why should the law require a separate permit for cutting trees from DENR which awarded the open pit mining grant in the first place?

As two separate regulatory decisions, it could very well come to pass that a mining company cannot proceed with its legitimate business because the same bureaucracy which awarded the mining concession refuses/delays grant of the tree cutting permit. How ludicrous and wasteful can it get?!

Good points by Dr. Javier there. The bureaucracy’s DNA is regulate this, prohibit that, unless they get the bureaucrat’s permits and signatures. Photo below is from the web, wiki commons.

min bulld

It is a cycle in opent-pit mining and quarrying: tree cutting and land clearing, get the surface-level minerals, ores, non-metallic products like lime and coal; when mined-out, cover the area with topsoil, start planting, in a few months and years, the place can no longer be recognized as a former mining area because of the big trees growing. Government simply has to implement existing laws, do not make exemptions to friends, cronies, small-scale mines, and so on.

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