Government misses mining EO deadlineBy Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The Aquino administration has failed to meet its own deadline to come up with a comprehensive mining policy amid concerns in the industry over a draft executive order outlining such a proposed mining policy.
Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. on Wednesday said that “due to the weighty issues involved and the significant impact the mining industry has on the welfare of our people and the environment, we are at present conducting additional consultations with industry stakeholders.”
He said more discussions with stakeholders need to be done to produce a policy that takes into consideration “the interests of all those affected by the mining industry, especially the communities directly affected by mining operations.”
“(This is) so we can adopt directives that take into consideration the interests of all those affected by the mining industry, especially the communities directly affected by mining operations, consistent with existing laws, regulations and strict environmental standards,” Ochoa said.
“The new mining policies will be issued after we obtain the necessary input from the sectors involved and after a thorough and exhaustive assessment of the impact of these directives,” he added.
President Benigno Aquino III told a business forum in late January that he expected the administration to come up with a clear policy on the mining industry by the end of February.
Mr. Aquino said at the time that he had already received a draft of the policy recommendations and that the draft was being routed to the government agencies concerned for their comments.
He said that last year he had directed the members of his Cabinet to review the current policies on mining, the present situation in the industry, policy considerations and recommended changes.
The mining industry is currently beset by issues of environmental degradation, safety of miners and residents in mining communities and the displacement of indigenous peoples.
Two weeks ago, Malacañang assured foreign business groups and industry stakeholders that their concerns would be considered when the government finalizes the executive order.
According to presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, mining industry stakeholders have expressed concern over certain provisions in a draft EO that has already undergone some changes.
The Joint Foreign Chambers and the Philippine Mining Exploration Association recently expressed concern over the proposed mining policies and asked the administration to consider the concerns of the industry.
“We understand the concern of the joint foreign chambers. What they’ve seen was the primary draft. That draft has already undergone changes,” Lacierda told a news briefing Wednesday.
The draft EO proposes among other things the replacement of the first-come, first-serve system in mining applications with competitive public bidding; closing prime agricultural land and eco-tourism zones to mining operations; and the conduct of a total economic valuation scheme in mining areas before mining operations are allowed.