PNoy's mining EO welcomed, criticized

by Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 09 2012 11:19 PM | Updated as of Jul 10 2012 08:21 AM

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) - Under Executive Order No. 79, no pending application for mineral agreements will be granted until Congress passes a new law increasing 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," said Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje.

The President wants the current excise tax on mining raised from the current 2% to a range of 5-7%.

Paje is recommending that the measure rationalizing the revenue-sharing scheme be certified as urgent.

He believes that mining operators will not be turned off with the proposal.

“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," Paje said.

"We are telling them that you are paying this much in Australia, in Canada, in Chile, in Brazil, why are you not willing to pay that in the Philippines?”

Following the executive order, no new mining operations will be allowed in 78 tourism development areas across the country, including Palawan, prime agricultual lands and those covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, and other critical and protected areas.

In all these, mining is not completely banned as existing mining contracts before the EO was issued will be honored.

Small-scale miners would be limited to so-called People’s Small-Scale Mining Areas.

The EO strictly prohibits the use of mercury in small-scale mining.

Main points of EO 79
Moratorium on new mining permits stays until law on revenues passed
New mining operations not allowed in 78 tourism development areas
Gov't to honor existing mining contracts
Small-scale miners limited to 'minahang bayan' areas
Gov't bans use of mercury in small-scale mining
Gov't seeks to increase revenue from mining
“We have to contain them in one place so that we can contain the wastes and we can treat them properly. With PD [Presidential Decree] 1899, the LGUs [Local Government Units] can issue permits anywhere and it’s so difficult to contain their wastes and it’s so difficult to treat them. But with this provision of minahang bayan, we will contain them in one place," Paje said.

The EO stressed that local ordinances should conform to national laws and polices.

The EO laid other measures to increase government’s revenue from mining: the establishment of mineral reservations where five percent additional royalties will be collected and the opening of minining areas through competitive bidding.

There are also plans to collect higher application and occupational fees.

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines welcomed the EO, saying it respects the decision to close certain areas to mining and improve the regulation on small-scale miners.

Catholic bishops have launched a signature in support of an alternative mining law, saying it only benefits mining interests and does not provide enough protection for the environment.

"Hindi naman konsiderasyon iyung political willability. Ang konsiderasyon ay tama ba o mali. Moral ba o imoral," said Lingayen-Dagupan Archbisop Soc Villegas.

Environmental groups, including the Kalikasan party-list group, vowed to question the EO before the Supreme Court.

"Hindi nagkaroon ng dayalogo sa panig namin. Mukhang ang kanilang binibyang pansin, iyung pakipagdayalogo sa Chamber of Mines. Hindi nakapagtataka. Sila iyung tuwang-tuwa dito sa paglalabas ng bagong executive order on mining," said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of the Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment.