Duterte must ‘fix’ mining
UNFORTUNATELY lost in all the controversy about language and insults, President-elect Rodrigo R. Duterte has been establishing the foundation of some basic policy decisions that are critical and were ignored in the Aquino administration.
One of the most serious and glaring lapses of policy has been in regard to the mining industry. Rather than try to actually do something about both the taxation system and potential environmental problems for this industry, the Aquino administration simply stopped new mining investment and stuck its head in the sand. While properly recognizing that there were serious issues that needed to be addressed, the government— including the legislature— just ran away.
Pick up a foreign news report about mining in the Philippines and you will always read that the country is one of the most mineral- rich areas on earth. As rich as the country is in mineral products, we are equally as “poor” when it comes to a sensible mineral extraction and processing policy. Is there any nation that has had successive governments as incompetent and ineffective as ours with regards to this issue?
Incoming President Duterte has consistently been an outspoken opponent of mining, resented particularly by the foreign mining interests operating in Mindanao. For more than 20 years, Davao City was completely off- limits to any sort of mining activity at Duterte’s instance. In his comments directed to the mining companies, “I am putting you on notice. I don’t want you here.” Staunch environmentalist Gina Lopez endorsed Duterte’s antimining stance prior to the elections.
Mineral extraction and processing is a complex issue involving national economics, the rights of the indigenous peoples, environmental concerns and— in most mineral- rich area— security. But to simply ignore the Philippines’s mineral wealth makes no sense either. In recent comments, Duterte indicated that maybe the best way to move forward is for ownership of mining companies left to local Filipino companies. This will be a challenge given the great long- term capital commitment need for mining. But it is also probable that Filipinos could more effectively police the mining practices of Filipino companies.
The “no mining under any circumstances” groups bring hypocrisy to a new astounding level. When they organize a “throw your smartphone and laptop into Manila Bay Day,” we might raise our respect. On the other hand, mineral extraction has been a grim environmental problem since the ancient days of King Solomon’s mines. But if you are smart enough to invent a standard of living that depends on mining, then you should be smart enough to provide for the necessary minerals in a safe way.