One morning, over a cup of piping hot cocoa, a daily habit I inherited from my grandmother (who lived till she was 102, so there must be something in those beans), l pondered if I should write about the recent Mining Philippines 2017 conference that was held last September 5-7 at the Sofitel Manila. My initial hesitation was brought about by the fact that I am part of a Group that is into natural resource development, so my opus might come across to most as rather contrived.
This, not to mention the many times I was invited as resource person in several forums on mining and even interviewed occasionally to speak for the industry.
There was a time I had to explain to the public the cause of the accident which occurred in our mines and enumerated the steps we took to mitigate and to arrest any damage, to rehabilitate and to compensate in accordance with that which was prescribed by law and by rules and regulations. Despite that, I was pilloried and called a liar in an editorial of one of the leading newspapers. So, you can understand the apprehension here.
Am I at risk of being lynched? Am I opening my flanks to another visceral, verbal assault?
Perhaps I am, but as the phrase from an all-too familiar song composed by Paul Anka and popularized by Frank Sinatra goes, “ For what is a man, what has he got; if not himself, then he has not; to say the things he truly feels…”
Quicker than Harry Potter’s Professor Snape can say “Expelliarmus!”, Paul Anka’s admonition cast away any lingering doubts. So, here we are.
The three-day annual conference had the theme “Responsible Mining: Beyond Compliance” as the theme for this year. Indeed, what the industry sought to project to the public, after the whirlwind it experienced in the interim between this conference and the last, was that it was an industry that did not just comply with the law and with rules and regulations, but went beyond: by policing its ranks, by stamping out the illegal and the irresponsible, by adhering to international standards, particularly that of Australia and Canada.
Miners planted trees way beyond that required by law and have become the largest contributor to the National Greening Program. Miners have contributed to government more than what was required, where Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) went beyond mere compliance with the Social Development and Management Program (SDMP) of the Philippine Mining Act. In short, miners have, in one way or the other, improved the lives of the people and the communities they serve, way beyond what is expected of them.
For this year’s conference, I had both the honor and pleasure to serve as panelist in the panel discussion on The Global Mining Landscape: Challenges and Opportunities moderated by my good friend, the highly amiable Dr. Jose “Joey” Leviste, Vice-Chairman of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines and Chairman of Oceanagold Philippines Inc.
Speakers for this discussion were Mr. Ian Hiscock, Principal Consultant of the CRU Group, who spoke on global mining development and trends in the Asia-Pacific Region, and Mr. Bill Sullivan, Senior Foreign Counsel of Christian Teo & Partners (in Association with Stephenson Harwood LLP), who spoke on Indonesia’s experience with Domestic Processing & Refining (DP&R) and the important lessons it can give the Philippines.
My fellow panelists were Pocholo Domondon, PWC Partner for Isla Lipana & Co., and Atty. Dennis Quintero, Partner of Quisumbing Torres Law Offices.
What interested me particularly in our panel discussion was the Indonesian experience with DP&R as there is a current legislative move to also have this implemented in the country. The bottomline of Mr. Sullivan’s presentation was that it did not work for Indonesia, so perhaps the Philippines should also reconsider in light of these findings.
I could not agree more. Whatever debate there be on mining policy or direction must be based on solid facts and data, on empirical evidence and not on emotions, conjecture, or even news and facts drawn out of thin air.
All in all, the mining conference had this to say: there are bad mining companies and there are bad mining practices, and that these must stop. The industry, working together with government, as well as with the public, must put an abrupt end to this.
Quickly, before a wizard from Hogwarts can say Finite Incantatem or, worse, Havada Kedavra.
And, as Paul Anka would proclaim to all and sundry,
“The record shows, I took the blows, and did it my way!”