‘Go for gold’: Mining revival to spur economic recovery

Published April 29, 2021, 12:12 AM

by Manila Bulletin

After shepherding the enactment of new laws that would spur economic recovery, the Duterte administration lifted a nine-year moratorium on new mining projects with the recent issuance of Executive Order Number 130. 

EO No. 130 repealed Section 4 of EO No. 79 issued by then President Benigno Aquino III that prohibits the grant of mineral agreements “until a new legislation rationalizing existing revenue sharing schemes and mechanisms shall have taken effect.”

The repealed regulation now reads as follows: “The government may enter into new mineral agreements, subject to compliance with (the) Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and other applicable laws, rules, and regulation.”

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines noted that new mining projects that will come on stream will “provide additional government revenues in the form of taxes and fees, royalty fees, and increase in export value, as well as employment opportunities for thousands of Filipinos, especially those in rural areas.”

In a 2019 study, think tank Stratbase ADR Institute said that “a 2016 list of just 11 pending mining projects [in the Philippines] was estimated to total over $23 billion in capital investments.” In contrast, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas reported that total foreign direct investment from January to November 2018 totaled only $9.06 billion.

Latest official data indicate that the mining industry contributes only 0.85 percent, or P134.5 billion, to the country’s total gross domestic product (GDP). This is despite the fact the country’s mineral resources have an estimated value of around $1.4 trillion. 

Administration critics point out that since 2016, the Duterte administration  has fully evolved from a strong pro-environment stance that was led by its first Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Gina Lopez. During her 10-month stewardship of the DENR, she “shut down or suspended 26 mines that failed to pass environmental audits, cancelled approval of 75 proposed mines, and banned new open-pit metal mines.”  She left office after Congress did not confirm her appointment.

Meantime, the government has doubled the excise tax on minerals, mineral products, and quarry resources from two percent to four percent thereby addressing the concern in EO No. 79 regarding the need for a review of revenue-sharing schemes.

Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), a coalition of anti-mining groups warns: “Lifting the moratorium exposes this administration’s support for mining projects that will impact our water, food supply, forest, biodiversity, indigenous communities and fragile island ecosystems.”

With only 14 months left before the end of its tenure next year, will the Duterte administration prove its detractors wrong?  Clearly, it has prioritized economic recovery as it struggles to contain a raging pandemic.