By Noel Y. Punzalan
COTABATO CITY, Aug. 22 (PNA) – Various stakeholders in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) agreed on Friday to cooperate in enforcing mining laws in the region where vast deposits of fossil fuels and minerals are tightly guarded from illegal explorations.
Officials of the ARMM led by Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Kahal Kedtag, environmentalists and representatives of the region’s Moro and indigenous non-Moro highland communities met at the Office of the Regional Governor (ORG) here and discussed comprehensively the region’s natural resources and how to preserve them.
During the discussions, some expressed support for “responsible mining” that will guarantee the welfare of the communities where mining is to take place.
Dubbed Multipartite Forum on Environment and Natural Resources, it was jointly organized by ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, Regional Natural Resources Secretary Kahal Kedtag, and Oblate priest Eliseo Mercado Jr., director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance.
Under Republic Act No. 9054, ARMM has limited powers over mining operations, with only the national government can issue licenses for extraction of oil, natural gas and minerals.
In the past two years, the regional government earned P140 million in regional wealth tax from mining operations.
Many of the participants of the forum expressed concerned over unregulated and unprotected mining activities in the region.
Aside from mining, the group also vowed to work for the preservation of environment in the region’s five provinces — Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. (PNA)