BIZ BUZZ: Awaiting Marcos’ mining moves | Inquirer Business

BIZ BUZZ: Awaiting Marcos’ mining moves

/ 02:07 AM August 10, 2022

Mining firms heaved a huge sigh of relief following Malacañang’s policy pronouncement that the government will ramp up the development of the industry to shore up the economy.

Miners in Zambales, in particular, must have also felt vindicated by the recent audit conducted by the Mines Geosciences Bureau (MGB) that they passed with flying colors.

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According to reports, these mining companies—Benguet Corp. Nickel Mines, Eramen Minerals Inc., LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc. and Zambales Diversified Metals Corp.—got an aggregate score of 97.86 last year from 93.07 the previous year.

They were assessed for safety and health, environment and social development management performance.

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Veteran stockbroker and now Eagle Securities senior consultant Den Somera told Biz Buzz that the Marcos administration’s policy is most welcome.

“The industry has suffered immeasurable losses because of the successive shutdowns,” he said. “I hope that the present government will follow through with this initiative and finally consider the industry as one of the pillars of economic growth.”

The industry could be a rich source of revenue for the government due to the growing market for industrial minerals, specifically nickel.

But Biz Buzz hears that stakeholders first want to see the Marcos administration set the stage for an investor-friendly mining industry.

In particular, they believe that the Philippines should take advantage of the increasing need for nickel, propelled by the large demand for batteries, specifically for electric and hybrid vehicles.

They say that the country should especially aim to become a major player in the electric vehicle supply chain of which nickel is a vital component.

In the US, President Biden is set to unveil a $3.1-billion plan to boost domestic manufacturing of batteries in a broader effort to shift the country away from gas-powered cars to electric vehicles.

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Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy, is already way ahead in harnessing nickel to grow its economy.

President Widodo has been hobnobbing with world leaders and technology movers to position his country at the top of the EV chain. He had a high profile meeting with Tesla and Space X founder Elon Musk at the private space agency’s headquarters, discussing “future collaboration on many fronts.”

Mr. Widodo acts as his country’s top salesman and has been successfully luring foreign investment from the likes of Musk into his country of 273.5 million people. Can President Marcos do the same? Abangan!

—Daxim L. Lucas

Crypto warning

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued an interesting warning against Binance, the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange.

In an Aug. 2 response to a complaint-letter from the Infrawatch PH think tank, led by former Rep. Terry Ridon, the SEC advised the public against investing with Binance.

This was based on the fact that the crypto platform had failed to register as a local corporation or partnership. Thus, it could not apply for any license to solicit investments from the public.

We won’t dwell on the hazy regulations and how cryptocurrencies should be classified. Elsewhere in the world, the debate continues on whether these should be considered securities or commodities.

In any case, the SEC letter could also be read as telling Binance to simply register.

Why the company, led by Chinese billionaire Changpeng “CZ” Zhao, has failed to do so is curious given his recent visit to the Philippines to drum up their local expansion plans.

The plans include securing a virtual asset services provider license from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the route some of its local counterparts took.

This is unfolding as another local player plans to make a splashy entrance in the sector.

Of course, we’re referring to GCash, the mobile wallet backed by the Ayala Group’s Globe Telecom and CZ’s fellow Chinese billionaire, Jack Ma.

Neil Trinidad, head of new business at GCash, said they would launch their own crypto exchange sometime this year.

GCash appears to be betting on its massive base of over 60 million users but we would like to see more interesting features that would differentiate it from other platforms.

— Miguel R. Camus

Robot-powered Aboitiz Power

Aboitiz Power Corp., the flagship unit of listed Aboitiz Equity Ventures Inc., has enlisted the help of “robots” to improve the company’s customer service and operational efficiency.

AboitizPower said this was a result of its recently concluded Robotic Process Automation (RPA) bootcamp wherein 23 robots were “successfully developed.”

The newly developed robots, it added, have reduced turnaround and processing schedules across participating teams by an average of 50 percent, not only saving time, money and effort but also freeing up team members to do more value-adding work.

Among these is a robot developed by Visayan Electric Co., the Cebu-based distribution utility of the Aboitiz Group. It is capable of consolidating high-volume data from various sources and generating accurate and actionable reports.

AboitizPower explained that RPA technology, not to be confused with mechanical robots, are “metaphorical software robots” that use artificial intelligence to handle manual and repetitive tasks that would otherwise be very tedious to complete.

These include capturing customer information, sifting through power outage data and fast-tracking internal processes.

The power company said there would be more programs to further improve the digital competencies of team members, in line with the Aboitiz Group’s transformation toward becoming the Philippines’ first “techglomerate.”

— Jordeene B. Lagare INQ
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TAGS: Biz Buzz, Business
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