Industry group bucks House bills on mining-free zones
The Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) has backed the full and even implementation of the Philippine Mining Act across the country as the group expressed reservations over pending bills that will designate certain areas as mining-free zones.
In a letter to Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on environment and natural resources, the JFC identified these eight house bills as HB 45 for Cagayan de Oro City, HB 670 for Catanduanes, HB 3667 for Nueva Vizcaya, HB 3780 for Eastern Samar, HB 4363 for the second district of Sorsogon, HB 5260 for Nueva Ecija, HB 5261 for Biliran and HB 5262 for Davao City. These are currently under deliberation by the Senate environment committee.
The JFC stressed that the country’s existing mining legislation was already at par, if not better, in terms of the social and environmental obligations of the mining companies and these proposed bans on mining in certain provinces and cities under the various House bills were inconsistent with Republic Act No. 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.
“The Mining Act was enacted to resuscitate the industry. It opened the doors to potential developers of mining projects. By providing significant social and environmental safety nets, the law is considered to be a model legal framework for sustainable development and among the best in the world,” the JFC said.
“Mining must respect the community and environment, which proper implementation of the Philippine Mining Act will achieve. In comparison to other mining laws of other countries like the United Kingdom, United States, Australia and Canada where mining plays a strong role in the growth of their first world economies, the Mining Act is deemed as being at par, if not better, in including social and environmental obligations of mining companies,” it stressed.
The JFC maintained that mining remained to be a “viable industry, under existing constitutional and legal structures, which creates jobs, empowers communities and enables sustainable ecological and economic development.”
According to the JFC, 30 percent of the Philippine land area with a total of 9 million hectares had high mineral potential. Of this, only 60,000 hectares—about 35 percent the size of Quezon City—were occupied by large-scale miners.
“The Fraser Institute of Canada has ranked the Philippines in the top 10 countries most attractive for mineral development based on mineral potential alone. However, the country ranks within the bottom 10 least attractive locations because of policy and bureaucratic obstructions and the lack or government support for mineral development,” the JFC added.
At present, the proposed amendments to the revenue-sharing scheme between the government and mining companies have been stalling the growth of the highly lucrative industry.
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