The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (“DENR”) issued on 04 March 2022 DENR Administrative Order No. 2022-04 (“DAO 2022-04”), providing for adequate measures to ensure the integration of biodiversity conservation and protection in all stages of both on-shore and off-shore mining operations.
Section 6.1 of DAO 2022-04 enumerates the specific biodiversity measures to be undertaken during the Exploration, Development and Utilization, and Closure, Decommissioning and Rehabilitation Stages of mining operations, which must be integrated in the Environmental Work Program (“EWP”), Environmental Protection and Enhancement Program (“EPEP”), and Final Mine Rehabilitation and/or Decommissioning Plan (“FMR/DP”), or any related and relevant plans of all existing mining applications and approved mining tenements.
- Exploration Stage
Biodiversity measures to be undertaken during this stage are further divided into four (4) sub-stages: 1) Preparatory Stage; 2) Reconnaissance Stage; 3) Semi-Detailed to Detailed Exploration; and 4) After Exploration.
Under the Preparatory Stage, mining companies must conduct data gathering on critical ecosystems and species in the area to establish a baseline, following existing guidelines in the preparation of the EWP (MGB Form 16-1).
For the Reconnaissance Stage, mining companies are to conduct a biodiversity assessment to validate areas which are critical for ecosystem services and wildlife habitats. Caves, if present, are also identified and located within the mining area, and an assessment shall be conducted with the DENR following procedures prescribed in DENR MC 2007-04: Guidelines for Cave Classification.
The Semi-Detailed to Detailed Exploration Stage requires the inclusion of soil type and profile in the environmental baseline; the monitoring of water quality parameters in major river channels, tributaries and coastal waters to establish an environmental baseline; the avoidance of disturbance to critical wildlife habitats; the use of less invasive and advanced technologies; the strict enforcement of the provisions of the Wildlife Act on hunting, collection, or injuring wildlife species; and the conduct of an initial or rapid economic valuation of ecosystem services to determine the environmental costs of the mining operation.
Activities under the After Exploration Stage are reforestation and/or undertaking of civil structural interventions; management of stockpile of excavated and removed earth, toxic and hazardous materials; establishment of water lines for planting/rehabilitation sites; use of indigenous or native species as nurse trees and for the re-establishment of vegetation; strict prohibition against use of invasive alien species; and gradual replacement of all existing exotic species to native species two (2) years after the approval of DAO 2022-04.
- Development and Utilization Stage
Mining companies in the Development and Utilization Stage of their operations shall develop a site-specific rehabilitation plan incorporating the required particulars stated in Section 6.1, subject to the approval of the DENR.
- Closure, Decommissioning, and Rehabilitation Stage
During this final stage of mining operations, mining companies are required to continuously monitor and manage the rehabilitated area for ten (10) years or less, as may be decided by the Contingent Liability and Rehabilitation Fund Steering Committee (“CLRFSC”); conduct biodiversity monitoring; and facilitate the establishment of a community-based monitoring and management body for the rehabilitated mined-out area in collaboration with the DENR.
Additionally, DAO 2022-04 provides for three (3) indicators of a successful and compliant rehabilitation activity: 1) at least 85% survival rate of the established vegetation at the end of the rehabilitation period; 2) species diversity in the rehabilitation area closely mirrors the diversity of the reference ecosystem; and 3) indication of restored ecosystem functions are evident.
Section 6.2 of DAO 2022-04 requires the mining contractor/permit holder to implement progressive rehabilitation at every stage of the mining operation to restore mined-out areas close to its natural ecosystems and to allow regeneration of biodiversity. Section 6.3 requires the employment of full-time personnel with expertise on ecology and biodiversity conservation. Section 6.4 requires at least five (5) percent of the total area of the approved tenement be set aside as a reference ecosystem; if there is none available, it must be set in an area one (1) kilometer away from the tenement. Section 6.5 requires mined-out areas that were originally forested and areas deemed necessary for conservation of critical ecosystem services to undergo rehabilitation for ecological restoration. If the mining area is identified as a habitat for Philippine dipterocarps, Forest Over Ultramafic Rocks/Ultramafic Forests, or as an area critical for ecosystem services and wildlife habitats, Section 6.7 requires the mining company to conduct additional compensatory rehabilitation activities outside the mining area.
Existing EPEP, Annual EPEP (“AEPEP”), Social Development and Management Program (“SDMP”), and Annual SDMP (“ASDMP”) shall be revised within one (1) year from the effectivity of DAO 2022-04. Submission of the revised EPEP, AEPEP, SDMP, and ASDMP are also required for the resumption of the mining/mineral processing operation/exploration activities that are suspended and under care and maintenance.
Non-compliance with the provisions of DAO 2022-04 warrants the imposition of a suspension order or the revocation of the Mining Production Sharing Agreement (“MPSA”) by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (“MGB”), subject to existing procedures of the agency.
DAO 2022-04 shall take effect fifteen (15) days after its publication in a newspaper of general circulation and upon acknowledgement of the receipt thereof by the ONAR. As of 15 March 2022, DAO 2022-04 has not been published.