Malacanang is said to release this week the revised executive order (EO) outlining a new set of mining policies. But research group IBON said that beyond the EO, what the industry truly needs is a long-term and sustainable program that will maximize the potential benefits of mining while reducing its possible harmful effects to the environment.
The Aquino administration was compelled to draft an EO last year due to the strong anti-mining lobbying by cause-oriented groups, the Catholic Church, and the local communities. The EO will supposedly address the concerns raised by various groups and sectors. While far from being progressive, last year’s draft EO already made foreign investors jumpy. The Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce (JFC) and the Philippine Mining and Exploration Association Inc. (PMEA) warned that the country “risks missing out anew on the benefits of the multibillion dollar mining industry” if it will go ahead with the planned EO.
According to IBON, such reaction indicates the very low policy standard that foreign mining firms demand from their Third World hosts in order to extract the maximum profits.
Malacañang was quick to assuage the restlessness of foreign investors, saying that their concerns would be taken into consideration. It said that what the JFC and PMEA were reacting to an early unrevised draft of the EO, implying that the new EO may already have watered-down provisions that could potentially benefit the people and the environment.
Last year’s draft EO reportedly contained the following provisions: replacement of the “first-come, first-served” system in mining applications with competitive public bidding; addition of declared prime agricultural lands and ecotourism zones to areas closed to mining; conduct of the total economic valuation scheme in mining areas before mining applications are approved and mining activities are allowed; review of all existing incentives and mining contracts to see if these are in line with the new mining policies; and promotion of downstream processing.
According to IBON, beyond an EO the Philippines needs a strong mining program, which includes a policy regime that collects the maximum gains possible from mining operations such as through taxes and royalties. At present, this is not aggressively being pursued as government’s main objective is to create a favorable environment for private and foreign investors, and not to raise much-needed resources that can be used for industrialization. It should also strictly regulate the outflow of mineral resources to ensure maximum benefits not only by imposing regulation on volume outflows but also by requiring the transfer of technology.
IBON added that the mining program should have the perspective of forging the country's industrial capacity, starting with the proper management of resources to benefit the Philippine population both socially and economically. This should be within the framework of a Philippine industrial program that will promote vibrant downstream activities which will process and refine the country’s mineral ores to produce finish products with high domestic value-added content. This will also create greater local economic activities and additional employment in the domestic labor market, said IBON. (end)