By Madelaine B. Miraflor
While miners lauded the Mining Industry Coordinating Council’s (MICC) decision to recommend the lifting of the ban on open-pit mine in the country, they are also hoping that the government will also move to finally resolve the issues surrounding the Executive Order 79 (EO 79), which bans the entry of new mining projects in the country.
“We see the MICC recommendation as a positive development for the mining industry. Open-pit mining is an accepted mining method that is practiced worldwide. It is proven to be safe, efficient and economical, and can be fully rehabilitated post-mining,” Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) Executive Director Ronald Recidoro said in a text message.
“This will help bolster mining investor interest in Philippines. However, we still have to resolve the moratorium on new mining projects imposed under EO 79,” he added.
The Philippines is currently the fourth most mineralized country in the world. At previous market prices, the country’s untapped mineral resources are estimated to be worth around P73.47 trillion.
Yet, these resources are yet to be translated into revenues due to regulatory issues and certain existing policies like EO 79.
Under EO 79, no new mineral agreements shall be approved until a legislation rationalizing existing revenue sharing schemes and mechanisms shall have taken effect.
Before he left the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in July, former MGB Director Mario Luis Jacinto expressed interest to work towards the abolition of EO 79, saying that it is “not needed”
In May, upon taking over the leadership in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said that he won’t close the doors to the possibility of allowing new mining projects in the country.
According to Recidoro, the appeal to abolish EO 79 is something that COMP will formally raise to Cimatu during their next meeting.
Cimatu, on Tuesday, said that he will lift the controversial ban on open-pit mine before the end of the year, following the recommendation of MICC.
However, he said that before he issues a new department order reversing the previous issuance of the DENR banning open-pit mine, he will first consult other members of the Cabinet.
Commenting on this issue, Recidoro said the DENR seems to be “on the right track” when it comes to dealing with mining issues.
“They are looking to review existing policies for operating mines, including the rehabilitation fund, mineral taxation, etc. Any improvement in the monitoring and regulation of mining projects is a positive development for us,” Recidoro further said.
According to Recidoro, the industry was supposed to have a meeting with Cimatu on Tuesday but it was cancelled.
The meeting , he said, will most likely take place after Cimatu’s visit in Australia, which is yet to be finalized.
Meawhile, the MICC also agreed that it should be the DENR, through its Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), to “take a close look and take appropriate action” on the issue involving the expansion of 24 mining areas covered by Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSA).