Malacañang on Monday released President Benigno Aquino III’s new mining policy which seeks to increase government revenue and assure the protection of the environment.
Signed by the president on July 6, Executive Order (EO) No. 79 aims to institutionalize and implement “reforms in the Philippine mining sector [by] providing policies and guidelines to ensure environmental protection and responsible mining in the utilization of mineral resources.”
In an ABS-CBN News report, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon Paje said that no new mining contracts will be granted until the Congress passes a legislation that will increase the government’s share from mining revenues.
“The EO says exploration can continue; other activities pertaining to mining development can continue except the fact that we cannot sign new mineral contracts for mining agreements,” Paje was quoted in the report, adding that the president wants to increase the mining excise tax from the current 2 percent to around 5-7 percent.
“If we increase it for example to five to seven percent, that is still within the international standard and that is what they are paying if they are operating abroad. So it will not impact on the income of the company. But somehow, we believe that the ‘come on’ would be the quality of our deposits and the volume of our deposits,” he said.
In a GMA News Online report, the environment secretary added that they are also planning to increase the application and occupational fees to further boost the national government’s revenues.
Malaya also reported that the DENR will review the performance of existing mining operations and cleanse the current list of around 300 mining contracts.
According to Manila Standard Today, Aquino’s EO also limits small-scale mining and prohibits any activity in at least 78 “no-go” mining zones which covers tourism sites and primary agriculture and fishery zones.
“I think based on the DOT (Department of Tourism) submission, there were 78 sites identified by the DOT in the NTDP (National Tourism Development Plan) as ‘no-go zones.’ This, in effect, will be completely banned for mining activities,” Paje was quoted in the Philippine Star report.
“The other one is prime agricultural lands and fishery zones. It will be completely banned for mining activities. And the other one is, of course, other areas or island ecosystems as may be declared by the (DENR),” he added.
Aside from the said provisions, Inquirer reported that the new mining policy also orders the creation of a Mining Industry Coordinating Council to implement industry reform, the awarding of areas with verified reserves through public bidding, and the ban on the use of mercury in small-scale mining.
In a Rappler report, several groups noted that the provision in the EO that stresses the primacy of the national government over local government units (LGUs) regarding mining-related decisions would threaten local autonomy.
“The policy is actually the same, if not worse than the other mining polices because everything will be dictated by the national government,” Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes said.
“LGUs shall confine themselves only to the imposition of reasonable limitations on mining activities conducted within their respective territorial jurisdictions that are consistent with national laws and regulations,” he added.
Environmental group Kalikasan Chairman Clemente Bautista also said that the new policy “undermines LGUs that will craft ordinances that will determine their own economic development or oppose destructive projects.”
Their sentiments were echoed by think tank Ibon Foundation which also noted the invalidation of local legislation that are aimed at protecting communities from the harmful effects of large-scale commercial mining.
Meanwhile, in a separate Inquirer report, Albay Governor Joey Salceda said “the final shape and complexion of the mining EO has taken a very constructive approach toward the LGUs role.”
Salceda earlier warned of a possible legal battle between the national and local governments over the new mining policy.
Anti-mining advocate Gina Lopez also lauded Aquino’s EO but asked the president to decide on how existing mining contracts would be treated “if they ran smack in the middle of a tourism area or agricultural land.”
Philippine Star reported that several mining companies have welcomed the new policy, calling its issuance as a positive step toward full development of the industry.
Here is the new Mining executive order.