New mining EO may well end ‘pick and shovel’ daysBy Frinston Lim, Germelina Lacorte, Judy Quiros
Inquirer Mindanao, Philippine Daily Inquirer
TAGUM, Davao del Norte—The much-anticipated new mining policy of the Aquino administration may very well spell the end of the “pick and shovel” practice of small-scale miners, according to Compostela Valley Gov. Arturo Uy.
“Pick and shovel will not do anymore. We will now go for semi-big or medium-scale mining,” the governor said in a phone interview.
According to Uy, the much-awaited executive order on mining—expected to be signed and unveiled by Mr. Aquino any day now—was discussed at a recent meeting of governors and mayors.
Without going into details, Uy said the mining EO would regulate small-scale mining with small-scale mining areas to be designated as “minahang bayan” (public mines), pretty much echoing the little that Mr. Aquino had revealed to reporters in Davao City on Wednesday.
Uy said the EO, which will effectively revise the Mining Act of 1995, was “long overdue.”
Mr. Aquino said in Davao City that he would be deciding whether or not to approve the final draft of the mining executive order this week.
He told reporters that certain portions of the EO, including the prohibition against converting irrigated lands into mining areas, only needed some “fine-tuning.”
Another issue was the sharing agreement and the basis for sharing, he said.
He said the EO would also contain a provision for the creation of a new mining council that would assess mining projects and the rules to govern the industry as well as propose mining legislation.
Wait a bit more
In Malacañang, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte on Friday said industry stakeholders would have to wait “a little bit more” for the EO.
“We have been advised that there are minor revisions to be done. We do not know if that will be presented to the President today (Friday),” Valte told a news briefing.
“I understand [there were] very minor revisions that the President wanted,” she added.
Mr. Aquino said on Wednesday that Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. had promised him that the team working on the EO would have already resolved his issues with it by yesterday. He expressed the hope that the EO would be released by Friday.
Still not signed
Ricky Carandang, head of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office, said Ochoa and Environment Secretary Ramon Paje were scheduled Friday afternoon to discuss the EO.
“I was with the President until about noon and as of noon it had not been signed,” Carandang said.
“There’s a meeting this afternoon to discuss the EO. Whether or not it will be signed at the end of that meeting, I’m not sure,” he added.
‘Do we need legislation?’
According to a source familiar with the drafting process, one of the issues that cropped up during discussions was whether a mere executive issuance would be enough to increase the government’s share from the revenues generated by the mining firms, or if legislation would be needed for this.
There were also discussions on the new EO’s implications on the licenses issued by local government units covering small-scale mining sites which would now be known as “minahang bayan.”
The President himself on Wednesday raised the issue about whether legislation was necessary for the government to be able to increase its share from mining industry earnings.
“Do we need legislation to effect a better return for the state?” he said in Davao City.
Biased for foreigners
Militant environmentalists complain that the EO would still be biased toward foreign mining companies, like the Mining Act of 1995 which it is supposed to improve on.
“As long as mineral extraction aims only for exports, people will remain poor because it will fail to develop the country’s domestic industries,” said Francis Morales, secretary general of Panalipdan (Protect).
“They are only after the rising metal prices in the world market,” said Juland Suazo, Panalipdan spokesperson.
Belen Galleto of the pro-small mining group, Save Pantukan Movement, said the EO will “only give another form to the continued plunder by big foreign companies of the country’s resources while depriving small-scale miners their rightful share.”
“Even if the EO spares critical ecosystems, the extraction of resources for exports will bring about large-scale destruction, which the affected communities might not be ready to deal with,” she said. With a report from Norman Bordadora