DENR: 'Mining audit reports are public records'

THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said Monday that the audit reports on 41 mining firms, including those ordered to be closed or suspended, are open to the public.

DENR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Atty. Maria Paz Luna issued the statement to clarify reports that Environment Secretary Regina Lopez has kept the mining audit reports to herself and a handful of her consultants.

She said the audit reports are public records, and everyone can get a copy as long as they follow the procedure in the DENR Freedom of Information Manual, citing media and the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability as among those given out copies of the mining audit report.

"Beginning October up to November last year, each mining firm was sent a copy of the individual report through registered mail, informing them of the findings and recommendations of the audit team," said Luna, adding that attached to the report was the show-cause order.

She added that in the cover letter, the mining firms were also told that any explanation and/or comment to the said report should be submitted to the Office of the Secretary within seven days from receipt of the report.

"As proof of their receipt, all 41 responded to the report which then became one of the basis of the evaluation and decision to either close or suspend their operations."

According to Luna, the printed copies of the reports are available at the Legal Office of the DENR.

Meanwhile, reports and recommendations of the Technical Review Committee are available at the DENR website, she added.

The mining sector has been criticizing Lopez for her order to close 23 mining sites and suspend five others for their alleged violations of the mining laws. It has been opposing also the nomination of Lopez as DENR chief before the Commission on Appointments. (SDR/SunStar Philippines)