It was more than a year ago since the Duterte Administration pronounced for the first time that it wants to gain more out of the mining industry, something that was highly improbable then, until Executive Order (EO) 130 was issued six months ago.
It turns out that the government is serious – it really wants to gain something out of the mining industry, and as of now, it is already getting there.
After last week’s release of the country’s metals’ output from January to June, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) expressed high hopes about the mining sector, which now anticipates the entry of new players following the implementation of EO 130, which lifted the ban on new mining projects.
“More than the robust metal price, recent developments in the local minerals industry are anticipated to be game-changers in the overall performance of the industry in the coming years not only in terms of mine ore production but also in its economic contribution,” MGB said.
“By this we mean employment generation, increased revenue collection both at the local and national level, and improved quality of life of the host and neighboring communities,” it added.
Again, MGB, the government agency tasked to regulate and develop the mining sector, was referring to the issuance of EO 130 together with its implementing rules and regulations (IRR). To recall, this EO amended Section 4 of EO 79 of 2012 wherein the government may now enter into new mineral agreements, subject to compliance with the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and other applicable laws, rules, and regulations.
As if this was not good enough, and fortunately for the Philippine government, the mining sector also turned in somehow positive output and value. From January to June, the value of the country’s metals output was up at P68.63 billion while gold and nickel, which account for most of the country’s mineral production, also registered higher output.
To be specific, nickel ore production volume went up by 39 percent from 109,471 metric tons (MT) to 151,646 MT during the period, while the production volume of the yellow metal inched up by three percent from 8,257 kilograms to 8,545 kilograms.
This is not to say that the mining sector’s positive first-half performance has something to do with the issuance of EO 130, but it’s notable how the sector, despite the pandemic and being largely scrutinized by a lot of people, including the government itself, is really having its momentum now.
This momentum, of course, may also be largely attributed to how President Rodrigo Duterte turned from being a critic to one of the sector’s supporters. Aside from signing EO 130, Duterte also allowed Australian-Canadian mining firm OceanaGold Corporation (OceanaGold) to re-enter the local production stream. The President also gave the green light to the Office of the President to issue a “stay order” to mining companies that former and late Environment Secretary Regina Paz Lopez wanted to suspend and shutdown, effectively allowing these miners to operate despite the latter’s existing orders.
The president’s decisions prompted environmental concerns, with Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), for instance, saying these policy decisions could lead to further destruction of forests and watersheds across the country. “It will increase the destruction of forests and watersheds, fuel more land conflicts in the rural areas and intensify the impacts of climate change to the rural areas,” ATM said, particularly referring to EO 130.
For his part, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, who is co-chairman of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council, tried to dismiss these fears by assuring the public that the Duterte administration will strictly enforce the “non-negotiable condition” on the mining industry for it to adopt environmentally sustainable and responsible extractive practices.
Dominguez is the head of the Duterte Administration's economic team, and the fact that he believes in the mining sector and what it can do to the Philippine economy is surely serving the industry really well.