Go says streamlining mining sector process a gov't priority

Given the country's abundant copper and nickel resources, the streamlining of processes within the mining industry is a guaranteed priority of the national government, according to Special Assistant to the President for Investments and Economic Affairs Frederick Go. 

During a panel discussion at the Philippine Economic Briefing on May 27, Go said the government, especially the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), is working towards a  more investment-conducive environment in the mining industry through streamlining its permitting and application processes. 

This is considered the first step to a maturing mining sector, as the government aims to delve deeper into mineral exploration, downstream mineral investments, and capacitating the local steel industry. 

The current goal is to shorten the permitting process from five to six years, to two to three years, said Go, adding that they also hope to eventually lessen it to one to two years. He also cited the DENR's initiative to make permit processes simultaneous rather than sequential. 

Go remarked that this improved system will ensure "stable, consistent, and sustainable supply of raw materials." 

"We need to move up the value chain, from just mining the minerals from the ground, we need to start processing them domestically, rather than exporting them as raw ore. The multiplier value of the export alone, if exported, can be as high as ten times the value of raw ore, Unfortunately, the need is not for us to extract more minerals. But the truth is, for us to extract the major minerals of the downstream, we need to ensure a supply chain, that there is enough raw material to identify the huge investment in processing plants," he explained. 

In order to help mining companies, Go said the government is nearly complete in its geomapping of the Philippines in order for the government to prioritize areas and also reduces the risk of mining investors who are conducting operations with no knowledge of the mineral deposits present in a certain area. 

"In a perfect world, the dream, I suppose of the DTI, and the whole government is we move up from raw nickel, to processed nickel, to electric batteries, then to electric vehicles. Of course, processing electric vehicles in the Philippines would be our end goal, at least for today's point of view," he remarked. . 

Aligned with this, Go added that they continue to pursue investments in the steel industry, which currently relies heavily on importation. 

"Any facility we put up in the Philippines is import substitution, which helps the country's foreign exchange, as well as helps keep the jobs and investments here. There are several companies that are putting up steel plants as we speak," he said. 

He mentioned the P10 billion worth rebar rolling mill in Compostela, Cebu by SteelAsia Corporation, the country's largest steel manufacturer, as well as a major steel plant worth $400 million or P20 billion in Saranggani which will open in the third quarter this year.