Lacson: Gov’t should encourage mining, as long as firms are ‘responsible enough’

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 31 2021 12:48 AM

A rock sample showing quartz via ABS-CBN News/File
A rock sample showing quartz crystals is shown at the Mining Philippines Conference at the Sofitel Hotel in Pasay city on September 11, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA—Partido para sa Demokratikong Reporma standard-bearer Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Saturday said the national government "should encourage" mining as an industry, provided that companies are "responsible enough" conducting business.

While several environmentalists have opposed mining operations, problems in the industry have been brought about by small-scale firms that disregard the proper disposal of waste from their operations, the presidential candidate alleged.

"We should encourage . . . They are just lying underneath the ground," Lacson said in an online forum put together by Cignal TV and FINEX, when asked about his stance on mining should he win the 2022 presidential elections.

"Ang problema (The problem is) small-scale mining is so abused . . . It involves corruption. Ang (The) big companies, responsible enough."

In 2012, President Benigno Aquino III issued Executive Order 79 that suspended applications for mineral contracts in protected areas, prime agricultural lands, tourism development areas, and other critical places such as island ecosystems, among others. 

In April, President Rodrigo Duterte lifted a nearly 9-year moratorium on new mining agreements, saying the Philippines has tapped "less than 5 percent of its mineral resources endowment to date."

Earlier this month, several anti-mining groups urged Duterte to recall his decision re-allowing new mining agreements, noting that mining communities have been burdened with the environmental, health and social costs the industry entails.

The mining industry has contributed 0.5 percent or P22.5 billion to the Philippines' gross domestic product (GDP) in the first quarter of 2021, data from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) showed.

CORRUPTION LINKED TO MINING WOES

Lacson said corruption in government must be eradicated for the Philippines to have a "responsible" mining industry.

If government addresses corruption, "50 percent of the country's problems will be gone," he said.

Should he be elected, Lacson said he would automate government records and transactions, and push for a law that would exempt public officials from being covered by the Bank Secrecy Law.

"Every Congress, fina-file ko 'yung bill . . . Unfortunately, hindi lumalabas ng committee . . . Every Congress hindi nakakapasa," he said.

(I file the bill every Congress . . . Unfortunately, it doesn't get past the committee . . . It is not passed every Congress.)

The next administration should push to "reinvent our government," Lacson added.

"It is time for the government to really treat the business sector as partners in progress instead of competitors," he said.

"Overregulation, when it goes beyond our competition policy, has no place in modern and civilized society especially at a time when we need to encourage foreign investments and attract more capital inflow in the Philippines."

The Reporma standard bearer, however, said he is not keen on pushing to amend the Constitution to adjust the current 40-percent cap on foreign investments in every business in the country.

"It's like a gripo (faucet). Once you open it, hindi mo na alam ilang amount ng tubig lalabas (You don't know how much water will come out," he said.

"Easy to say we will only touch on economic provisions pero kapag nandiyan na (but if it's realized) it is possible na political provisions, term limits, would be included," he said.

"Palagay ko mga kababayan natin ayaw nito."

(I think our countrymen are not in favor of this.)

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