By Madelaine B. Miraflor
In a bid to wipe out the negative perception on the controversial mining industry, the Philippine government has embarked on a nearly impossible project — to convince a nation that is highly skeptical of the extractive industries that there is such thing as responsible mining.
On Friday, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) through the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) launched a nationwide information campaign on responsible mining.
Such move, according to Environment Undersecretary for Mining Concerns Analiza Rebuelta-Teh, could eventually pave the way for the lifting of the ban on new mining projects.
“It will have contributory effects,” Teh said, referring to the efforts of the government to push for the lifting of Executive Order (EO) 79, which says that no new mineral agreements should be approved “until a legislation rationalizing existing revenue sharing schemes and mechanisms shall have taken effect.”
Right now, the country’s mining industry contributes only 0.85 percent, or ₱134.5 billion, to the country’s total gross domestic product (GDP). This is despite the fact the country’s mineral resources has an estimated value of around US$1.4 trillion.
During the launch of the campaign on responsible mining, Teh admitted that right now, it is still close to impossible for the government and mining companies to tame the negative public perception on mining.
“No matter how much we show that we cannot live without mines, the government is still far from changing or at least neutralized the negative perception for the mining industry,” Teh said.
“The government is also being accused of weak monitoring of mining companies and that our enforcement of environmental laws is weak. We are also seen as corrupt and being attacked and accused of covering up for the failure of mining companies,” she added.
The challenge now, she said, is to turnaround this negative perception by “effectively communicating” the sustainable practices and outcome in the mining industry.
Dubbed the #MineResponsibility campaign, the campaign was led by Teh and DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu. It seeks to recreate a clearer and more factual image of the mining industry in the Philippines.
“We now have better and stronger policies in place to protect the environment and local communities and to mine with a long-term positive effect. We should not be wasting the massive mineral wealth of the Philippines when it can be used to benefit the people,” Cimatu said in a statement.
“Moving forward, our goal is to harness this mineral wealth for progress and development and the key to that is responsible mining,” he added.
Meanwhile, MGB Director Atty. Wilfredo G. Moncano emphasized that the information campaign aims to promote an inclusive approach in ensuring the mining industry’s commitment to the protection of people and the environment.
“It is important that the public is informed and involved in the enforcement of mining policies and environmental protection, and that’s what this campaign is really about,” said Moncano. “Especially now that mining requirements are more strict now than twenty years ago.”
“We take the issues of mining seriously,” added said Teh. “The campaign also goes beyond just information and education. We’ve been working on improving the mining industry since the start of the Duterte administration.”
Moncano said last month that that to get rid of illegal mining activities in the Philippines — one of the highly mineralized countries in the world — a separate government agency with more resources and more manpower is needed.
“We are now pushing for a [mining] task force to be made into a separate bureau. In this way, it will have more resources, more manpower, and more leverage to work with other law enforcement bodies,” Moncano said.
He is particularly referring to the National Task Force Mining Challenge (NTFMC), which was formed in 2018 to squash illegal mining operators. NTFMC’s first gig took place a month after it was formed when it was able to shut down a Baguio City mine near the Philippine Military Academy grounds.
“Through NTFMC, we aggressively apprehend illegal mining operators, as well as seize, confiscate, and dismantle their equipment, including blasting tunnel entrances or portals to the mining sites,” Moncano said.
The NTFMC was later re-established as the Environmental Enforcement Task Force, expanding its management of environmental protection laws beyond mining and now including the violation of logging laws, wildlife protection and agricultural policies.