MAC/20: Mines and Communities

The Philippine Senate Bill Seeks Repeal Of Mining Act

Published by MAC on 2004-12-30
Source: Business World Online

Senate bill seeks repeal of Mining Act

Business World Online

Thursday, December 30, 2004

A bill repealing the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 has been filed by the Senate in a bid to prevent large-scale mining from inflicting further damage to the environment In filing Senate Bill 295, Sen. Sergio R. Osmeña III said there is a need to avert disasters by putting in place a "farsighted approach to economic development."In a recent interview, Mr. Osmeña said the Supreme Court decision to uphold the constitutionality of Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act will not deter him from pushing for the passage of his bill.

He expressed doubts that foreign and local large-scale mining companies will be interested in investing despite the Supreme Court ruling. "It will be very difficult for them to recover their capital. They would have to dig very deep into our soil before they get minerals," Mr. Osmeña said. In the bill's explanatory note, he said the 2003 output of the mining and quarrying industry, which was equivalent to PhP17.966 billion or 1.52% of gross national product, was minuscule compared to the amount of damage caused to the environment.

"Some of the cost of environmental damage such as pollution of the waterways and the poisoning of water resources, the collapse of mountains, are not clearly reflected in the income accounts, but they are already being shouldered by communities around the mining sites. Future generations will bear the cost, as they fall victim to similar disasters," Mr. Osmeña said.

The National Economic Development Authority estimates some $840 billion worth of mineral wealth remains untapped, and Mr. Osmeña said this will not go to waste if the government allows local small-scale mining companies to conduct the exploration.

"In the absence of the Philippine Mining Act, it is hoped that subsequent mining activities will be restricted to small-scale miners who with their long-term stake in their respective communities tend to be more responsible about preventing environmental damage," he said.

"The numerous disasters to (sic) environmental damage emphasize the importance of a more farsighted approach to economic development. Clearly, the short-term profits from large-scale extraction of our natural resources should be weighed against the costs, both in the present and future, of damage inflicted on our environment," he added.

Early this month, the Supreme Court upheld the Philippine Mining Act as well as the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement between the government and Western Mining Corporation Philippines, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Western Mining Corporation Holdings Limited of Australia. The High Court ruling was lauded by economic managers as well as business groups who said the decision would revitalize the mineral industry and accelerate export growth.

The Board of Investments said a total of 23 mining and mineral processing projects are in the pipeline or have begun just begun commercial operations.
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