Before this administration formally started, certain pronouncements had already been made by the then-President-elect on his policy on mining: to curb illegal and irresponsible mining and for mining companies to comply with the laws and international standards, particularly that of Australia and Canada. Some mining companies, including Philex, openly supported the President’s call. And why not? Illegal and irresponsible mining was bad for business, bad for the economy.
This position on mining did not change in the sixty or so days after Rodrigo Roa Duterte took his oath as President and notwithstanding his appointment of staunch anti-mining advocate Regina Paz La’O Lopez as Secretary for the Environment and Natural Resources. When Secretary Lopez took the stand against illegal and irresponsible mining, some mining companies like Philex were one with her in this battlecry.
It was under this kind of milieu that this year’s Mining Philippines conference was held by the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) last August 23-25 at the Marriott Grand Ballroom at Resorts World Manila. The conference theme was “Realising the Potentials of the Mining Industry under the New Regime”.
I moderated the seventh and last plenary session entitled “Moving Mining Forward: Implementing An Action Plan for the Mining Industry” with Professor Ramon Clarete, Ph.D. of the University of the Philippines School of Economics as main discussant. Panelists to the discussion that followed included DENR Undersecretary and concurrent MGB Director Engr. Louie Jacinto, Benguet Corporation and Chamber of Mines President Philip Romualdez, CTP Construction and Mining Corporation President and CEO Clarence Pimentel, and University of Asia and the Pacific —Center for Social Responsibility Executive Director Professor Colin Hubo.
To Professor Hubo I posed the question as to whether miners were really socially responsible, on whether the focus should be people first then the environment or that the environment should come first. Professor Hubo explained that sustainability before was more economic rather than environmental, but that there must be a total effort, not just one over the other.
The question on federalism came up as this would impact on the kind of regulatory environment the industry would be having. Was it a boon or bane for the industry? Professor Clarete believes that the sharing of responsibility between national and local or federal governments should be spread out widely. For Philip Romualdez, a review of the constitution is always vital, but it is also very important to determine who owns the mineral resources.
MGB Director Louie Jacinto was just newly appointed to the post at around this time, so the industry was curious as to how he would move it forward. Suffice it to say, he did not disappoint. I asked him point-blank about what the direction was with regard Executive Order No. 79, the current administration policy on mining, and he said that they were starting a review of executive issuance and that hopefully it would not be needed anymore as we already had a strong mining law in place.
He said that what should be taken into consideration was that mining was not present in all 81 provinces of the country and that there were 236,000 of our countrymen and women currently employed in mining. That impacts also on their families and other dependents.
As to the ongoing audit of mining companies, Director Jacinto had said that responsible miners should not be afraid of the audit and that the MGB is expected to perform with professionalism, honesty and integrity.
With such words it seems the industry is in good hands with Director Jacinto. I know him to be a headstrong man who bases critical decisions on hard, empirical data and not on mere emotions and conjecture. We look forward to our continued partnership with the Duterte government and the Lopez DENR with Director Jacinto at the helm of the MGB.
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