JFC op­poses bills seek­ing to amend the Min­ing Act

Manila Bulletin - - Business News - By BERNIE CAHILES-MAGKILAT

The Joint For­eign Cham­bers (JFC) has op­posed sev­eral House bills declar­ing min­ing-free zones in the coun­try stress­ing the pend­ing bills seek to amend the Philip­pine Min­ing Act of 1995, Repub­lic Act No. 7942 (Min­ing Act), which they said need no changes.

In a let­ter to Rep. Ar­nel Ty, chair­per­son of the com­mit­tee on nat­u­ral re­sources at the Lower House, the JFC has urged for re­spect of the Min­ing Act.

“It is our po­si­tion that the House bills are in­con­sis­tent with the Philip­pine Con­sti­tu­tion and the Min­ing Act and should not be con­sid­ered and ap­proved by Con­gress,” ac­cord­ing to the JFC state­ment.

It sub­mit­ted some points which they be­lieve will pro­vide guid­ance on pro­mot­ing min­ing as a vi­able and sta­ble in­dus­try, un­der ex­ist­ing con­sti­tu­tional and le­gal struc­tures, which cre­ates jobs, em­pow­ers com­mu­ni­ties and en­ables sus­tain­able eco­log­i­cal and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, and bereft of er­ratic and in­con­sis­tent min­ing pol­icy.

First, the JFC said that 30 per­cent of the Philip­pine land area with a to­tal of 9 mil­lion hectares has high min­eral po­ten­tial. Of this, the ac­tual min­ing foot­print for the ex­ist­ing op­er­at­ing mines when added to­gether is only 60,000 hectares or only 0.2 per­cent of the to­tal land mass of the en­tire Philip­pine archipelago. To put things into proper per­spec­tive, 60,000 hectares is ap­prox­i­mately 36 per­cent, or a lit­tle over a third of the to­tal land area of Quezon City.

Yet, for such a small area of ac­tual cov­er­age, the min­ing in­dus­try con­trib­utes al­most 1 per­cent of GDP and in ar­eas like the Suri­gao and Palawan prov­inces, where it is has sig­nif­i­cant op­er­a­tions, the con­tri­bu­tion to the lo­cal economies are sub­stan­tial. The Fraser In­sti­tute of Canada has ranked the Philip­pines in the top 10 coun­tries most at­trac­tive for min­eral de­vel­op­ment based on min­eral po­ten­tial alone. How­ever, the coun­try ranks within the bot­tom 10 least at­trac­tive lo­ca­tions for in­ter­na­tional re­spon­si­ble min­ing in­vest­ments be­cause of pol­icy and bu­reau­cratic ob­struc­tions and the lack or govern­ment sup­port for min­eral de­vel­op­ment. Cur­rent govern­ment pol­icy has im­posed an of­fi­cial mora­to­rium on new min­ing ap­pli­ca­tions since July 2012. This has stalled the growth of the in­dus­try.

Se­condly, the JFC stated that RA No. 7942 of 1995, the Philip­pine Min­ing Act was en­acted to re­sus­ci­tate the in­dus­try. It opened the doors to po­ten­tial de­vel­op­ers of min­ing projects. By pro­vid­ing sig­nif­i­cant so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal safety nets, the law is con­sid­ered to be a model le­gal frame­work for sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment and among the best in the world.

Min­ing should re­spect the com­mu­nity and en­vi­ron­ment, which proper im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Philip­pine Min­ing Act will achieve. In com­par­i­son to other min­ing laws of other coun­tries, such as the UK, US, Aus­tralia, and Canada, where min­ing plays a strong role in the growth of their first world economies, the Min­ing Act is deemed as be­ing at par, if not bet­ter, in­clud­ing so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal obli­ga­tions of min­ing com­pa­nies.

Third, the for­eign busi­ness­men stressed that le­gal chal­lenges de­layed im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Min­ing Act for a decade un­til the Supreme Court in 2005 ruled with fi­nal­ity that the law is con­sti­tu­tional. Un­der the law, for­eign in­vestors can en­ter into Fi­nan­cial and/or Tech­ni­cal As­sis­tance Agree­ments (FTAA) and be granted per­mits for ex­plo­ration and min­eral pro­cess­ing.

Given the very sig­nif­i­cant cap­i­tal re­quire­ments and long lead-times to de­velop large mines, this rul­ing opened the way for the in­dus­try to grow with some of world’s largest min­ing com­pa­nies ex­press­ing se­ri­ous in­ter­est to in­vest in the Philip­pines, with tar­get in­vest­ments rang­ing from hun­dreds of mil­lions to sev­eral bil­lion US dol­lars.

That in­ter­est, how­ever, has since waned af­ter the im­po­si­tion of the min­ing ap­pli­ca­tion mora­to­rium. Thus, there is a need to re­vive in­ter­est by pro­vid­ing for a more sta­ble in­vest­ment en­vi­ron­ment for the in­dus­try.

The JFC is a coali­tion of the Amer­i­can, Aus­tralian-New Zealand, Cana­dian, Euro­pean, Ja­panese, Korean cham­bers and PAMURI. Com­bined, they claim to rep­re­sent over 3,000 mem­ber com­pa­nies en­gaged in over $100 bil­lion worth of trade and some $30 bil­lion worth of in­vest­ments in the coun­try, in­clud­ing min­ing com­pa­nies.

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