Chamber of Mines asks gov’t to reconcile national, provincial laws on mining
MANILA, Philippines—The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines has urged the Philippine government to intervene directly in the long-running battle between the contradicting provincial ordinances and national law, as it said this has seriously damaged investor confidence in the country.
In particular, the Chamber of Mines has called on the government to find a way of scrapping open pit mining ban in South Cotabato, which the government has already acknowledged as contrary to national policy.
The group explained in a statement that the ordinance, which included the open pit mining ban and which has been in place since mid-2010, served no one but those who opposed human and economic development in the Philippines. A similar ordinance was passed in Zamboanga del Norte in 2011.
“These destructive bans have seriously damaged investor confidence and impacted both foreign and domestic investments into the Philippines—investments that should play a major role in the government’s agenda for poverty alleviation,” the Chamber of Mines noted.
“Through the current mining policy review process, government has talked of the need to ‘harmonize’ provincial ordinances with national law, but the Chamber of Mines believes such language is soft and aspirational rather than directive,” the group said.
“We ask the Philippine government to seize the moment by delivering a firm and decisive statement to align provincial ordinances – existing and in the future – with national law, as well as by allowing mining firms to pay directly to the local government units their rightful share in mining revenues,” it added.
The Chamber likewise appealed to the Aquino administration to “correct” the decision made by Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, who “inexplicably and in an unprecedented manner denied the granting of the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) for the world-class Tampakan Copper and Gold Project in Southern Mindanao.”
“The position of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources contradicted the position of other top officials, among them, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, that the ban could not supersede the national law, the Mining Act of 1995, which only spells out responsible mining and does not ban any mining process such as open pit mining – a method used and accepted worldwide,” it added.
With an expected investment of almost $6 billion, the Tampakan project will be the single largest foreign investment in Philippine history.
The Tampakan Project is being managed by Xstrata Plc, one of the world’s most recognized large-scale mining houses when it comes to responsible mining. The project, however, sits today, with no known timelines, because the DENR has failed to set a deadline for reconsideration of the ECC approval.
“We fear that more investments will be lost such as what happened with the world’s biggest mining firms BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Anglo-American and Newmont, all of which tried to invest in the Philippines but left disheartened because of the perceived lack of business environment stability in our country,” the Chamber lamented.
“Xstrata has responded well to the Philippine government invitation to invest in the country and has demonstrated a strong commitment to advance responsible minerals development, having spent over $377 million in exploration and community relations initiatives despite the many challenges the industry has been facing,” the group noted.
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