BAGUIO CITY – Mining industry stakeholders described the current state of the country’s mineral industry as ‘parked’ which is similar to a motor vehicle parked in a parking lot.
Lawyer Ronald Risodoro, Executive Director of the Chamber of Mines (COM), attributed the present state of the country’s mining industry to the previous pronouncements of President Rodrigo R. Duterte against open pit mining which has significantly affected the entry of foreign investments in the industry for a long period of time.
Further, he claimed the failure of the government to grant additional Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs) to interested investors since 2010 also contributed in aggravating the worsening state of the mining industry aside from the suspension of the applications for exploration permits by extractive companies although the same was recently lifted.
Extractive industry, government, local government and civil society representatives gathered in Baguio City recently for the Baguio leg of the Philippine Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (PH-EITI) Road Show of its 4th country report.
“Mining industry stakeholders are in a quandary why the present administration continues to be adamant on mining as a catalyst of countryside development,” Risodoro stressed.
Benguet Provincial Administrator Noel Ngolob described the current state of mining in the country as restrictive because prevailing government policies have prevented small-scale mining groups to secure the appropriate permits from the concerned government agencies and the local government even if the groups are willing to adhere to prescribed rules.
However, Ngolob claimed that government must do something in relaxing the existing rules and regulations of the grant of permits to interested Minahang Bayan operators so that small-scale miners will have a greater chance of being issued such permits and to legalize their operations.
While vegetable farming is the major source of livelihood of the people of Benguet, small-scale mining is also one of the sources of livelihood in five of the thirteen towns of the province, specifically Tuba, Itogon, Mankayan, Bakun and Kabayan.
Mankayan Mayor Paterno Luspian described the recent pronouncements of the President against mining as politicking, thus, extractive industry stakeholders must also employ political pressure on him to make him change his stand on mining to help advance the practice of responsible mining among companies involved in the country’s extractive industry.
He added that benefits of mining are actually felt by people on the ground through the various programs and projects being separately funded by mining companies aside from the implementation of government-funded projects in the same mining communities.
Luspian claimed that mining should not only be viewed on the taxes that the industry is remitting to concerned government agencies and host communities but its benefits in terms of sustainable employment, sources of livelihood among other social and other benefits must also be considered to be able to assess whether or not mining has done something for the development of the countryside.
Mankayan plays host to the operation of the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company while Tuba hosts the operation of Philex Mining Corporation, the country’s largest gold and copper producer.
Engr. Fay Apil, regional director of the Cordillera office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB-CAR), said large-scale mining operators in Benguet continue to adhere to the present standards imposed on the country’s extractive industry while small-scale mining remains to be an underground economy considering the inability of the pocket mining groups to secure the necessary permit to operate their Minahang Bayan primarily because of problems on ownership of the land among other related issues that could be solved by the patent or title owner of the land and the concerned small-scale mining association.
She added the government provided the rules and regulations and it is now up to the concerned small-scale mining groups to comply with the prescribed guidelines to be granted the permit to operate their Minahang Bayan areas as defined under the law.
Banner photo: MINING EFFECTS. Philex mining subsidence area affects the community of Barangay Camp 3, Tuba, Benguet. To compensate the damages, the company is mandated to pay royalty to the host community. JOSEPH B. MANZANO, originally published 01/14/18