I am for Sustainable Mining operations in the country but clearly, there is a need to revisit mining in the Philippines. Roughly three weeks ago, Failon Ngayon of ABS-CBN featured Mining in the Philippines. Based on Ted Failon’s report, crucial requirements are not complied with and it even caused problems in the community where mining operations are conducted.
According to Kittelson and Carpo Consulting, The mining industry in the Philippines is regulated by the government and subject to foreign equity restrictions because of the Constitutional policy that mineral resources are owned by the State and their exploration development, utilization, and processing are under the its full control and supervision. The State may however directly undertake such activities or it may enter into mineral agreements with contractors, enter into co-production, joint venture, or production sharing agreements with Filipino citizens, or corporations or associations at least 60% of whose capital is owned by Filipinos with the other 40% foreign owned. These agreements may be for a period not exceeding twenty five years, renewable for not more than twenty five years, and under such terms and conditions as may be provided by Philippine law.
In terms of Foreign Owned Mining Company in the Philippines, The State is permitted to enter into agreements with foreign-owned corporations involving either technical or financial assistance for large scale exploration, development, and utilization of minerals, petroleum, and other mineral oils according to the general terms and conditions provided by Philippine law. The terms and conditions of the financial or technical assistance agreements are contained in The Philippine Mining Act . Under this law, only “qualified persons” may engage in the exploration, utilization, and development of mineral resources in the Philippines. These are:Any citizen of the Philippines with capacity to contract, Corporations, Partnerships, Associations, or Cooperatives organized or authorized for the purpose of engaging in mining, with technical and financial capability to undertake mineral resources development and duly registered in accordance with law at least sixty per centum (60%) of the capital of which is owned by citizens of the Philippines. A legally organized foreign-owned corporation may be deemed a qualified person for purposes of granting an exploration permit, financial or technical assistance agreement or mineral processing permit. A financial or technical assistance agreement means a contract involving financial or technical assistance for large-scale exploration, development, and utilization of mineral resources. (For more information about the business of mining, visit http://www.kittelsoncarpo.com )
What we need from our leaders is for them to think long-term in any mining policy that we will have. There is a need to study possible amendments to the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 (Republic Act No. 7942) due to a lot of disagreements over the exploitation of the country’s untapped mineral wealth estimated to be worth at least US$840 billion. We cannot sacrifice the environment just for the sake of economic gains. There must be a way to reconcile both. Recently, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III signed Executive Order # 79 covering Mining in the Philippines.
According to http://www.rappler.com/ , here are the salient points of the said EO on Mining;
1) On the revenue sharing scheme — which is the most contentious aspect of the EO — the government will work to legislate a rationalization of the current scheme and mechanisms. Meantime, the EO imposes a moratorium on the approval of new mineral agreements. “No new mineral agreements shall be entered into until a legislation rationalizing existing revenue sharing schemes and mechanisms shall have taken effect,” the EO said. The government of Pres. Benigno Aquino III has a year left before the current 15th Congress ends, but Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said in a Palace press briefing they will try to have this mining bill certified as urgent. This provision of the EO affects several pending permits by various mining investors, including those that have already completed exploration activities.
2) Small scale mining activities will be limited to areas declared as “Minahang Bayan,” in effect also limiting most areas where there are nickel operations. Most nickel miners operate on small scale permits as they await approval for their permits for medium or large-scale operations. The EO said, “Small scale shall not be applicable for metallic minerals except gold, silver, and chromite.”
3) To address environmental concerns, the EO bans the use of mercury in small scale mining, which, in turn, will have to be part of a specific “Minahang Bayan” area. “We need to contain the waste so we can treat them efficiently,” Paje explained. Three types of areas will be added to the current no-go zones for mining. These are (a) tourism destinations, which total around 78 sites identified by the Department of Tourism based on the National Tourism Development Plan, (b) agricultural lands, including an area in Leyte (c) island ecosystems identified by the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS)
4) A Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) is created to implement the EO and other industry reforms, conduct dialogue with stakeholders, and review all existing mining-related laws and rules. The council will be co-chaired by the chairpersons of the Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation and the Economic Development clusters of the Cabinet. Other members will include the Justice Secretary, the chairperson of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and the president of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP). The MICC will work with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to complete the implementing rules and regulations of the EO within 60 days.
5) On the primacy of national laws, particularly Republic Act No. 7492 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, the local government units that host mining operations are “directed to…conform to the regulations, decisions and policies…promulgated and taken by the National Government.” All existing mining contracts, agreements and concessions approved before the effectivity of the EO are stil considered valid. However, it added that the “DENR (environment department) shall likewise undertake a review of existing mining contracts and agreements for possible renegotiation of the terms and conditions of the same, which shall in all cases be mutually acceptable to the government and the mining contractor.”
6) For better transparency and governance, the DENR will commit to participate in and implement the global standards specified by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), and create a centralized industry database and a map system.
The EO intends to increase the revenue of government from mining, intends to improve environmental standards and tries to put consistency in national and local laws pertaining to mining. Under Section 1, a total mining ban will be implemented in at least 78 ecotourism sites in the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP), including Palawan and Boracay. Other ecotourism sites being eyed for inclusion in the mining ban are in Cebu, Iloilo, Davao and Subic in Zambales and Clark in Pampanga.
The NTDP, according to Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, is the product of a thorough inventory of tourist attractions in the Philippines. It divides the country into 20 strategic thematic tourism destination clusters covering 78 tourism development areas that will be the focus for massive development in four years. Other areas closed to mining operations are those under Section 19 of the Mining Act of 1995 or Republic Act 7942, including military and other government reservations or those covered by the National Integrated Protected Area System (NIPAS) under Republic Act 7586.
No mining operations will be allowed in prime agricultural lands, in addition to lands covered by Republic Act 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988. Before the EO, the no-go zones were confined inside the protected areas. In addition to the protected areas as provided for in Republic Act 7942 and the NIPAS Law 7586, there were three more added by this EO, one of which is the tourism destinations as provided for in the NTDP.
Under Section 6 of the EO, opening of mining areas will be done through competitive public bidding and no longer on a first-come, first-served basis. The grant of mining rights and mining tenements over areas with known and verified mineral resources and reserves, including those owned by the government and all expired tenements, shall be undertaken through competitive public bidding. The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) shall prepare the necessary competitive bid packages and formulate the proper guidelines and procedures to conduct the same, which shall include ensuring that the social acceptability of the proposed project has been secured.
The EO also includes guidelines for small-scale mining, which shall comply with RA 7076, or the People’s Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991, and the Environmental Impact Statement System requirements under Presidential Decree 1586. Small-scale mining operations should be undertaken only within the declared People’s Small-Scale Mining Areas or Minahang Bayan. It also states that small-scale mining shall not be applicable for metallic minerals except gold, silver, and chromite, as provided for in RA 7076. The use of mercury in small-scale mining shall be strictly prohibited. In addition, training and capacity building measures in the form of technical assistance for small-scale mining cooperatives and associations shall be conducted by concerned government agencies.
I admire this administration’s initiative to address mining issues in the country. However, history would show that although we have lapses in policies, what we truly lack is the political will to implement the law and stricter enforcement through iron clad government regulation. Mining should be everybody’s business because it will affect everyone. I was born in Marinduque and everyone knows what happened in our beloved Boac river because of Marcopper Mines. The province received funds to rehabilitate the river and the affected parts of the province but even up to now, no concrete action was taken.
We need to do more for our environment and we can always hold our leaders accountable for their actions or omissions. If we will continue to have mining in the country, let’s do it right. If we can’t, then let us not not engage in it at all.