Congress of the Philippines

03/19/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 03/19/2019 05:19

SGMA urges mining industry to help President Duterte achieve his legislative agenda

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SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau

SGMA urges mining industry to help President Duterte achieve his legislative agenda
19 March 2019 06:45:22 PM

Former President and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Tuesday called on the mining industry to help President Rodrigo Duterte achieve his legislative agenda by helping the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) focus on harvesting the fruits of those good seeds planted during the chief executive's term by way of implementation and not just policy-making or regulation.

Speaking before a business conference organized by the Philippine Nickel Industry Association (PNIA) themed 'The Nickel Initiative 2019, shaping tomorrow, together' held at the Shangri-la Towers in Bonifacio Global Center (BGC), Taguig City, Speaker Arroyo said the DENR should view itself as not just a regulator but also a promoter of responsible, world-class, efficient and mining businesses.

Speaker Arroyo said President Duterte's economic policies on 'Build, Build, Build' and tax reform, are truly revitalizing the economy. 'Then nickel ore production will increase in the coming years. And I wish you good luck for all of that,' she said.

Traditionally, Speaker Arroyo said, mining was always a major sector of the Philippine economy. However, after EDSA I, in the mid-1980s, mining was virtually banned.

'Then during my presidency, I revived the mining industry. In January 2004, I issued EO 270, declaring the policy to promote responsible mineral resources operation, development and utilization in a manner that is conducive to sustainable development and with due regard to justice and equity, and sensitivity to the culture of the Filipino people, and respect for Philippine sovereignty. That is what my EO 270 declared as guidelines for reviving the mining industry,' Speaker Arroyo said.

The Speaker said that in December 2004, they were able to reverse a Supreme Court ruling that was previously adverse. The high court ruled favorably on the issue of foreign participation in mining. 'I think those two acts in 2004 were what led to the present modern day mining boom in the Philippines,' said Arroyo.

'My successor was against mining and apparently wanted to ban it, but his Executive Secretary, I've been told, pointed out that there was no legal basis for a ban on mining. So what he did was to only ban new permits,' Speaker Arroyo said.

EO 79 disallowed the approval of new mineral arrangements until legislation rationalizing existing revenue sharing schemes and mechanisms take effect.

'But note, he did not ban any old existing operations through EO 79. Thus, 20 new operations were initiated in my successor's time. So, despite the fact that there was a ban on new permits, actually mining output during my successor's tenure was bigger than during my tenure,' Speaker Arroyo said.

In April 2017, the DENR issued Order No. 10, banning the open pit mining for copper, gold, silver and complex ores in the country. But even then, the Secretary of Environment was very quick to point out that the ban on open pit mining did not include nickel mines.

'There were reports at the time, urban legend has it that the Secretary of Environment closed 20 mining companies. But I think you know the facts. Actually none of them were closed. However, in that negative mindset regarding mining, the industry's output went back to the levels of my time. And this worried you, the business community. And inspired your industry to become more militant. The Chamber of Mines became more unified and the sector even began considering legal action. But when I became Speaker I discouraged legal action,' Speaker Arroyo stressed.

The Speaker said Congress should not have an adversarial stance. Congress should help the mining sector and the DENR because when the industry players and the DENR work together, the mining sector can contribute greatly to government revenues, exports, economic growth, job creation and the progress and development to the local communities that host mining.

'I have said earlier that even under my successor who was very strict about mining, the sector even grew compared to my time, and that is what we want to do now,' Speaker Arroyo said.

Speaker Arroyo pointed out that even in today's policy and regulatory environment, she wants to have the sector grow and contribute to sustainable national development within a framework that will approximate the thinking of President Duterte.

'So, I'm glad that Sal Panelo is here. The President has stated that regardless of his personal views on mining, the fact remains that our law allows mining.' | Eddie Galvez