Anti-mining protesters stage a rally along EDSA recently. - Picture by Bulatlat
THE Mindanao Business Council (MBC) is protesting the rush of anti-mining decisions at the local and national government levels which, they say, could drive away vital investments and threaten the stability of the regional economy in Mindanao.
“A lot of the laws and regulations being put in place are not friendly with business in Mindanao, including mining.
“Mining is one of the biggest contributors to the Mindanao economy and we will not allow the national government to deny Mindanao of this industry and its benefits,” MBC president Vic Lao said.
This developed as industry sources revealed that mining stakeholders in the private and public sectors have voiced their opposition to a draft executive order (EO) governing mining activities in the country, warning that the proposed EO’s provisions would prove to be fatal to the industry once implemented.
Sources said the still-unnumbered EO, carrying the title “Institutionalizing and Implementing Reforms in the Philippine Mining Sector, Providing Policies and Guidelines, and for Other Purposes,” will drive away future investments in the industry and imperil existing projects.
In particular, Lao said the decision of Environment Secretary Ramon Paje denying the application of Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) for an environment clearance certificate (ECC) on its $5.6-billion copper-gold project could lead to immense economic losses for Mindanao.
He cited studies showing the Tampakan mining project can contribute an additional 10.4 percent to the gross regional domestic product of Regions 11 and 12 annually throughout the mine life of the project.
He said the business sector was forced to step in to save the benefits from the proposed Tampakan project.
“The Mindanao business sector has decided to step in because we do not want the benefits of this project put to waste. The proposed Tampakan project can contribute a solid 1 percent to the GDP and it is of Mindanao’s interest that we all help protect this investment,” Lao said.
MBC sent an official communication to Paje expressing the Council’s disappointment over his denial of Tampakan’s ECC.
The MBC letter, signed by Lao, stated that the secretary’s action “based on an unfounded basis undermines and threatens investor confidence and impacts on the stability of the local business environment in Mindanao.”
Environmental activists wave posters protesting the destruction of ecology allegedly
caused by mining activities. - Picture by Bulatlat
“The council, representing the large business sector of Mindanao, has already adopted the proposed Tampakan project as our flagship project. The business sector in Mindanao has also identified mining as a key growth sector in the Mindanao Development Agenda,” Lao said.
Also, in the Mindanao Development Council road map dubbed as Mindanao 2020, mining was identified as a key economic driver, Lao said.
A copy of the draft EO has been leaked and it immediately drew adverse reactions as it will “unduly lengthen the bureaucratic red tape and eventually paralyze, if not kill the industry altogether.”
“It may have the best of intentions and is replete with motherhood statements, but the net effects might be imminently fatal to the mining industry,” an industry official said.
At a recent Joint Foreign Chambers forum pushing the “Arangkada 2010” agenda at the Marriott Hotel, President Aquino promised to issue “very clear” policies that will govern the mining industry by the end of February.
The new set of mining guidelines is a result of the work of a group of experts from the Cabinet that the President commissioned to study the state of the country’s mining industry and come up with new recommendations.
Industry players have already consulted with concerned government officials to clarify the contents of the draft EO.
They also asked President Aquino not to “prematurely and hastily issue the half-cooked draft EO which would only run into vigorous objections from practically all sectors of society, including business leaders and lawmakers.”
“We, therefore, urge Malacañang to conduct first a wide ranging and free consultation process among all stakeholders in and for the mining sector,” industry sources said.
They said the proposed EO would unduly delay all ongoing projects, stop short all exploration activities, as well as the issuance of new mining permits. “In short, the mining industry which this EO seeks to promote will be severely undermined.” – Business Mirror