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Letters to the Editor

Minerals management, not mining? Yes, it’s possible

/ 05:02 AM December 01, 2017

Many of the problems that hound the mining sector, including the recent ruckus over the lifting of the ban on open-pit mining, can be solved by a proposed new law: the Alternative Minerals Management Bill (AMMB).

The measure, crafted in consultation with environment NGOs, indigenous peoples, and mining-affected communities, provides the answer to the controversies and issues surrounding mining today. The House of Representatives’ committee on natural resources has wrapped up the Technical Working Group discussions on the bill, and it will be up for second reading in the plenary.

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The AMMB, or the proposed Philippine Minerals Resources Act, will repeal the Mining Act of 1995 so that the people affected by mining projects can share the power to participate in the approval of mining permits through the creation of a multisectoral mineral management council.

The bill changes views on mineral resources, from simply profiting from their extraction to actually benefiting from them. The extraction should fuel the country’s industrialization through the development of manufacturing and downstream mineral industries. Correcting one of the flawed provisions of the Mining Act, the bill will not any more allow the extraction of ore minerals for export.

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Under the AMMB, only Filipino-owned corporations will be allowed to extract minerals—a complete opposite of the current mining law that allows large-scale mining, mostly operated by multinational corporations. The criteria for areas where mining is prohibited are clear. The no-go areas include those declared no-mining zones by the local government; densely populated, especially residential areas; head waters of watershed areas; those with potential acid mine drainage; critical watershed; critical habitat; disaster-prone areas; geo-hazard areas; key biodiversity areas; prime agricultural lands; old growth natural or primary and secondary forests; watershed forest reserves; and wilderness areas, among others.

The bill intends to protect small island ecosystems, such as Manicani Island in the Leyte Gulf, from mining. Residents of Manicani have camped outside the Department of Environment and Natural Resources offices to oppose the new application of Hinatuan Mining Corp.’s mineral production sharing agreement on Manicani, which expired last Oct. 27.

The communities bear the brunt of the destruction and harm caused by these mining projects. Aside from instituting clear-cut conditions on the mining that will be allowed, the AMMB allows
allocation to local communities from the mining taxes collection.

Based on the figures of the 2016 Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative report for fiscal year 2014, only 17 percent of total revenue payments goes to the local government. This amounts to P1.8 billion of the P11.1-billion total revenue collection from mining.

A provision in the proposed bill is the increase of the excise tax on minerals from the current marginal rate of 2 percent. It is not surprising that revenues from mining and mineral products account for a mere 2.4 percent of the country’s total excise tax collection.

The Philippines is the fifth most mineralized country in the world, yet mining contributes only 1.1 percent of the gross domestic product, 0.4 percent of total employment, and 0.6 percent of the government’s total revenue collection. The landscape of the mining industry is definitely inequitable and unjust. The harm and destruction caused by mining on the environment, the people, and the economy are not worth the supposed benefits.

I hope that my colleagues in the legislature will hear the cry of neglect and destruction. It is time to replace the current system while we still have time.

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REP. TEDDY BAGUILAT, Lone District of Ifugao

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