EO 130 seen leading to lifting of open-pit mining ban
When President Duterte, through an executive order (EO), instructed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to review all the country’s existing mineral agreements, did he also give the agency the green light to finally lift the ban on open-pit mines?
“It’s a separate interpretation to be provided by the DENR chief,” said Wilfredo Moncano, director of the Mines and Geoscience Bureau. “While the EO covered all [mining] operations… the secretary must still issue an administrative order to address [the ban on open pit mining].”
As it stands, the weeks ahead are especially crucial for miners. Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu is set to gather his team to interpret the President’s directive through the issuance of the EO 130’s implementing rules and regulations (IRR).
Thereafter, the environment chief may or may not issue an administrative order that would lift the ban on open-pit mines based on meetings among members of the technical working group. The ban on open-pit mining has been in place for four years now.
Open-pit or surface mining has been a contentious issue among miners and environmental advocates. The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) said it is a globally accepted mining method. Alyansa Tigil Mina and Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment insist this mining technique has caused extensive environmental damage.
Currently, there are mining companies employing the open-pit method.
The Chamber said the government must put in place stable policies if it wanted the industry to move forward and decide where it stands on the issue of open-pit mining as well as the suspension orders issued during the term of the late former DENR chief, Regina Paz Lopez.
Both industry players and the environmentalists are also looking at how the government would define “responsible mining,” which should be made clear in the IRR of EO 130.
Leon Dulce, national coordinator for Kalikasan, believes the People’s Mining Bill “provides us with an earnest attempt” to do mineral extraction sustainably. The bill includes raising the industry’s taxation regime to 10 percent from the current average of 4 percent (9 percent for those that pay royalties), and further raising the royalties imposed to 10 percent from 5 percent.
Stringent mining laws
According to COMP officials Gerard Brimo and Rocky Dimaculangan, the Philippines already has one of the most stringent mining laws in the world.
“We are one of the few mining countries that require setting aside funds for social development programs … We are also one of the few mining countries that require every large-scale metallic operator to secure ISO certifications on environmental management,” they said.
“When the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Mineral Awards was launched in 2017, the best metallic mine and processing plant was adjudged to be in the Philippines, as voted no less than by the various Asean mining minsters, surely an evidence, if it was ever needed, that responsible mining does exist in our country,” they added.
One thing is clear: both sides of the spectrum recognize that consumers depend on metals and minerals for just about everything—from building houses and vehicles to gadgets and appliances.
“Mining can provide a meaningful opportunity for economic expansion by encouraging both foreign and domestic firms to expand. We do have to highlight that any expansion must still be governed by standards designed to protect our environment and ensure responsible and sustainable mining practices,” said Nicholas Mapa, senior economist at ING Bank Manila.
“Given that the government has cited this EO as a move to bolster increasingly empty coffers, authorities should look to increase royalties on windfall or super-profits to maximize the impact on the fiscal position … [they] may also relax some tariffs on imported machinery given the high capital requirements for the industry while still ensuring that local labor is employed with proper safety and guidelines enforced,” he added. INQ
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