MINING industry players welcomed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR’s) direction of reviewing the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.
Vicente Lao, chair of the Mindanao Business Council (MINBC) and former president of the Alliance of Responsible Miners in the Davao Region told reporters Monday, August 8, at the sidelines of the Kapehan Sa Dabaw in SM City Davao- Annex that all laws are subject to amendment.
“I think that is okay as the law is not carved in stone. There are things that need to be revised as the industry progresses,” he said.
“If they can find flaws to it (mining act) and if it needs to be revised then so be it, I believe the responsible miners are willing to follow, that has never been an issue with the big mining firms,” he said.
Lao, however, would rather put the blame on the small scale mining industry, which he said, has not been regulated properly.
Environment secretary Regina Paz “Gina” Lopez said that the Mining Act will be reviewed last Thursday, August 4 during the Mindanao Environment Summit 2016.
She described the law as “flawed” as it is skewed to give full benefit to the mining sector, and not towards the people.
Lopez also considered the mining act as good as treason (to the state) as foreign mining firms are allowed to operate here, collecting minerals in the country and eventually bringing it to other countries.
Lopez said the mining industry has net revenue of P35 billion, 82 percent or P29 billion of which goes to the mining company, leaving only 18 percent or P6 billion to the government. “And out of that, how much goes to the community? Ay naku! Kaunting kaunti (very minimal),” she said.
Lopez pointed out that if they will sum up all the benefits the mining industry contributed as against the value on the destruction caused to farmlands, fishery resource and health, among others, the latter will weigh more than the former. But, Lao refuted what the secretary has said underscoring more than 50 percent of the companies’ revenues were poured to the government.
“I do not want to accuse the secretary for the selective information but that is not really true, if you look at the overall taxes paid by the mining companies more than 50 percent goes to the government,” Lao said.
Lao also explained that foreign companies bring minerals to other countries for purposes of refinement as the country has limited refinement facilities.
“The basic concept is really the minerals belong to the state, now you have to look at the realities on the ground does the country have the facility to process these? It is not simple, if the country does not have the resources to process their own material, how can we insist that it should not go abroad?” he said.
“You already have revenues in terms of ore, the minerals, but since you do not have the resources to refine it, you just have to sell or export it as ore,” Lao added.
The MinBC chair said that only Surigao and Palawan have operating refinement companies. He cited that Indonesia, which used to be a large exporter of Nickel, is now bent on banning its Nickel resources from exportation as “they want to put up their own refining companies so that the raw materials will be used by the refining companies.”
When asked if they are willing to put up own refinement facilities if the Philippine government will require them to do so, Lao was quick to add that it will be up to the mining companies.
“Well, that is a business decision of every businesses whether they will invest on such, there are a lot of factors to be decided when you put up an investment,” he said. He added that what the government can do is encourage firms by giving them incentives.
MinBC chairman Lao described the present mining act here as more stringent than the mining laws implemented in Australia and Canada.
“The mining industry is willing to take up the challenge of the President Rodrigo Duterte that they should be practicing responsible mining, that has never been an issue, it is already in the mining act, all of these are there we just have to follow them,” Lao said.
He further said that the shift to Federal form of government will help a lot in ensuring that mining taxes paid by the companies will be delivered to mining communities where they are operating.
“MinBC is supporting federal shift of gov’t because with that revenues generated in the area will remain there, it can be used to improve the community and the mining sites, in that situation there will be no poor mining communities,” he said.