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Miners group lauds lifting of 9-year ban on new mining deals

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, the umbrella organization of mining, mineral quarrying and processing companies in the country, of Thursday cheered the lifting of the nine-year ban on new mining projects.

“A major roadblock to the huge potential of the Philippine mining industry to contribute to socio-economic growth has been removed,” COMP said in a statement.

“We welcome the lifting of the moratorium on new mining projects – in place for nearly nine years – in this time of great national difficulty as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the miners group said.

President Rodrigo Duterte issued Executive Order 130, which provides that the government "may enter into new mineral agreements, subject to compliance with the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and other applicable laws, rules, and regulations."

The order lifted the ban on new mining projects imposed by Duterte's predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, in 2012.

“Mining projects that will be allowed to operate following this development 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,” COMP said.

“The industry’s positive impact on host communities can be clearly seen in regions around the country where mining has been allowed to flourish, such as in Caraga and MIMAROPA,” it added.

In his EO, Duterte said the Philippines so far has tapped less than 5% of its mineral resources endowment.

Under the EO, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is tasked "formulate the terms and conditions in the new mineral agreements that will maximize government revenues and share from production, including the possibility of declaring these areas as mineral reservations to obtain appropriate royalties, in accordance with existing laws, rules, and regulations."

Likewise, the President’s EO tasked the DENR to undertake a review of existing mining contracts and agreements for possible renegotiation of the terms and conditions.

On the other hand, the DENR and the Department of Finance will take measures to rationalize existing revenue sharing schemes and mechanisms.

COMP said the removal of the “policy roadblock” will undoubtedly help encourage both local and foreign investments into the country.

“Since 2010, investor interest in the Philippines has declined. Executive Order 130 will help bring the Philippines back on the investment map,” it said.

EO 130 argued that new mining agreements can stir economic growth needed to support government programs such as the Build, Build, Build and the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Program.

Through lifting of the ban, the government hopes an increase in employment opportunities in remote rural areas where there are mining activities "thereby stimulating countryside development."

“We believe that adequate social and environmental laws, rules, and regulations are already in place to mitigate the impact of mining on communities and the environment. Despite this, the members of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines have voluntarily adopted the Towards Sustainable Mining program, a global social and environmental performance standard that compels us to operate beyond mere compliance,” COMP said.

“We have also subscribed to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative to further demonstrate our commitment to the highest standards of transparency and accountability in business,” it said.

EO 130 states that the lifting of the ban was made after DENR conducted a thorough review of the regulatory framework of the mining industry and "has [put] in place additional rules, regulations, and policies providing for and enhancing environmental safeguards to ensure that mining operations observe environmental protection."

Likewise, EO 130 also allows DENR to continue issuance of Exploration Permits under existing laws, rules, and guidelines.

The recipients of such exploration permits will have the rights under the said laws, rules, and guidelines over the approved exploration area and given the right of first option to develop and utilize the minerals in their respective exploration area upon the approval of the declaration of mining project feasibility. —LBG, GMA News