Manila, Philippines – PRESIDENT Benigno “Noynoy“ Aquino III recently issued a new Executive Order to strengthen the implementation of the country’s environmental legislation and policies on mining. The EO mandates the development of “a national program and road-map based on the Philippine Development Plan and a National Industrialization Plan for value-adding activities and downstream industries for strategic metallic ores.“
Instantly controversial, the EO is dubbed by some groups as a victory for big mining companies. In our interview over my morning radio program in DWIZ 882AM, I asked Senator Edgardo Angara to weigh in on the issue. Senator Angara said that he has yet to read the EO and would not comment without having fully read the order.
He however said that due to the abundance of mineral deposits such as gold and copper, mining can either be a boon or a bane for the country. Senator Angara explained that the Philippines has an old mining tradition which has made us the 6th largest producer of both gold and copper worldwide. He estimated that of the total mineral wealth of the country, only 10% are being harvested while the rest are quite literally under the ground. Thus, there is a huge potential in terms of mining revenue to the government.
According to Senator Angara, herein lies the problem most often, local communities are fighting the entry and operations of mining companies in their area because there is no equitable sharing of revenues between the local and national government. Aside from this, there is a widespread lack of deliberate effort to promote and practice responsible mining. The adverse environmental and health effects of mining operations are also among the biggest and strongest argument against mining activities.
Senator Angara said that if left unchecked, the irresponsible mining operations in various parts of the country will leave irreparable damage on the Philippines’ natural wealth and the health of its people. However, if these issues are properly and adequately addressed, mining can provide the country with a huge income out of its estimated reserves worth US$1 trillion in mineral deposits.