MAC: Mines and Communities

Communities True Test Of Mining, Says Exec

Published by MAC on 2006-03-29
Source: Inquirer

Communities true test of mining, says exec

By Tonette Orejas, Inquirer

29th March 2006

Editor's Note: Published on Page A18 of the March 29, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

CLARK SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONE-While the national government has laid out a favorable legal and regulatory climate to revitalize the mining industry, the real test will still be in the communities, a top official of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines said.

Benjamin Philip Romualdez, CMP president, said mining companies must "demonstrate" that they are also capable of environmental care and sustainable development.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, on the other hand, wants to "give the mining industry a chance to prove itself" as mining firms start 23 projects and 37 explorations worth $8.5 billion, Romualdez said during a seminar here of the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines last Friday.

The CBCP has assailed the Mining Act of 1995 (Republic Act No. 7942) for its alleged threats to the environment. It has decried the industry's records of accidents before the law got the nod of the Supreme Court.

The law, upheld with finality in February 2005, opens full ownership of local mining projects to foreign investors, renewing interests in the industry.

The industry contributed 2.14 percent to the country's gross domestic product in 1985, declining by 27 percent in the 1990s, trade data showed.

The CBCP statement, according to Romualdez, will have "very little effect on the government's policy."

Earlier, the government said it was going only for "responsible mining" and that firms would be required to put in 10 percent of their gross income to environmental protection.

Romualdez, who noted that the industry was adopting "best practices," said the CMP continued to take on capability-building measures such as training on technology, transparency and social responsibility programs.

The total mineral wealth in the country has been estimated at $840 billion, with a third of its 13 million hectares considered geologically prospective for mining.

"It's a total shame not to take advantage of the blessings," Romualdez said.

He suggested that the government "invest more" in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources so that the agency would be able to do its functions, mainly in the "proper implementation" of the mining law at the local level.

Romualdez said he hoped there would be no constant changes in the leadership of the DENR, which has seen four secretaries in five years.

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