Next admin must have a vision to realize potential of the country’s mining industry

Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. on Friday said the next administration must develop a cohesive, long-term policy for the mining industry so that it can contribute to the economic development of the Philippines and improve the lives of people.

In an interview, Marcos lamented that the current administration has failed to put up a vision for the mining industry. Worse, he said the government’s anti-mining stance has slowed down the development of the mining industry.

The Philippines is a top producer of minerals, ranking 3rd in gold, 4th in copper, and 5th in nickel in the world.

“There is no mining policy in this government today. We do not have any kind of plan. There is no vision as to what we want the mining industry to be 5 years from now, 10 years from now, or 15 to 20 years from now,” said Marcos.

In fact, many of the government’s policies are contrary to the principle and intent of the 1995 Philippine Mining Act, said Marcos, who was one of the reactors at the Mining 2015 forum held at the Solaire Resorts and Casino in Pasay City.

“By having a purely anti-mining policy, we are not taking advantage of that and therefore we are lessening the benefits that we can give to our people,” he said.

Among others, Marcos cited the “use-it-or-lose-it” policy the Department of Environment and Natural Resources implemented in 2010 in a bid to open to new investors mines that have not been worked on for a long time. Since then, he noted that the DENR has not issued any new mining agreements.

There were also the proposed expansion of the “no-go” zones for mining and a proposed increase in the government’s share of 10 percent of gross output or 55 percent of adjusted mining revenue.

Marcos said that if the government only wants to get more taxes out of the mining industry, it would deter investment in that sector.

“We need to balance the requirements of the economy, assistance to local governments, and of course the most important factor of protecting our environment,” he said.

On the other hand, Marcos said the mining industry must also address other valid issues raised against it, apart from environmental concerns.

“One of that is that the industry must be more sensitive to the needs and concerns of the local communities in the area of the mining operations,” he said.

He said the mining industry must ensure that affected local communities would derive tangible benefits from and assure them that necessary safeguards are in place to ensure protection of their environment and ecology.

“Understanding that we need to take full advantage of the benefits of mining, we must also balance that with, of course, the sensitivities of local government, the sensitivities of the local communities, and paramount to everything is the preservation of the environment,” Marcos said.

To help local governments benefit from mining activities, Marcos has filed Senate Bill No. 113, mandating the appropriation and release to the concerned LGUs of their 40 percent share from national wealth taxes.

He noted that LGUs are complaining that under the present system, the National Government either fails to remit or fully remit the said share to the host LGUs, or that it takes a long time for the LGUs to receive their share.

Marcos said the only way the country can benefit from an enlightened exploitation of its mineral resources is “to have a mining policy that is clear to everyone and not have these contradictory directives that are coming from different agencies”.

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