MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte has lifted a nearly 9-year moratorium on new mining agreements, which he said could support economic growth and the administration's multi-billion peso infrastructure drive.
Duterte's predecessor Benigno Aquino III in 2012 issued Executive Order 79 that suspended applications for mineral contracts in protected areas, prime agricultural lands, tourism development areas, and other critical places like island ecosystems, among others.
Duterte on Wednesday signed EO 130, which states that the moratorium on mineral agreements under Aquino's order "is hereby lifted."
"The Government may enter into new mineral agreements, subject to compliance with the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and other applicable laws, rules, and regulations," read Duterte's order.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources "may continue to grant and issue Exploration Permits," the President added.
He directed the agency to "formulate terms and conditions in the new mineral agreements that will maximize government revenues and share from production, including the possibility of declaring these areas as mineral reservations to obtain appropriate royalties."
"The DENR shall likewise undertake a review of existing mining contracts and agreements for possible renegotiation," he said.
The country has tapped "less than 5 percent of its mineral resources endowment to date," said Duterte.
He said a tax reform law that he signed in 2017 doubled the excise tax on minerals, mineral production, and quarry resources to 4 percent from 2 percent.
"In addition to ushering significant economic benefits in the country, the mining industry can support various government projects, such as the Build, Build, Build program, by providing raw materials... and the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Program by increasing employment opportunities in rural areas where the are mining opportunities," the President said.
In 2018, Duterte lifted a 2-year moratorium on approving mining exploration permits to help determine the potential of some prospects in the Philippines, the world’s No. 2 nickel ore exporter.
Mining remains a controversial issue in the country due to past examples of environmental mismanagement, and only 3 percent of 9 million hectares identified by the state as having high mineral reserves is mined.
Duterte has repeatedly criticized miners for polluting rivers and destroying forests.
But a government panel in 2018 said 23 out of 27 mines have passed an initial review for compliance with state regulations.
The Philippines is the second biggest supplier of nickel ore to top buyer China, after Indonesia, where it is used to produce stainless steel.
— With a report from Reuters
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