THE mining sector’s contribution may have dropped to less than a percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) but its benefits stretch far beyond the mine site, providing valuable employment and opportunities to the countryside, a high-ranking official of Philex Mining Corp. said.
Atty. Michael Toledo, Philex Mining senior vice president for Public and Regulatory Affairs and head of the MVP Group Media Bureau, said the industry’s contributions to the economy go beyond revenue from the mineral extracted from the mine sites, citing the sector’s indirect contributions in community development and nation-building.
“In addition to taxes paid to government, mining projects spend part of their operating budgets on social development and management projects, which translates to billions of pesos in health, hospitals, education, livelihood, training, and enterprise development that goes beyond the host communities,” Toledo said during the Pandesal forum in Quezon City.
He said this is on top of the billions of pesos spent by mining companies on roads, bridges, power supply in remote areas with a prevalence of poverty and where government does not exist.
This infrastructure development is proof of responsible mining’s multiplier effect, both regionally and nationally, he said.
“None of these mining communities, usually out of reach by the government, will have these amenities without mining,” he said, debunking Environment Secretary Regina Paz Lopez’s claims that mining the money would not ultimately benefit the Filipino people
Lopez earlier said that the Duterte government does not mind if some investments expected in the mining sector over the next 10 years would not take place at all, saying the country will get minimal benefit from the projects anyway.
The DENR chief also noted that the state receives only 18 percent of revenues from mineral extraction while the rest goes to the mining companies.
Lopez also claimed that people are poor in a large number of places where mining is active.
P10-B taxes paid in 5 years
Toledo countered by saying that areas with mining operations are usually first and second-class municipalities, citing Baguio City and the gold-rich provinces of Benguet and the Cordilleras, which were built on the backs of miners.
In the case of Philex Mining, Toledo said the company has made significant contributions in community development in its area of operations in Itogon and Tuba, Benguet—contributing over P10.12 billion in regular and mining-related taxes to government coffers between 2011 and 2015.
Philex, which now only has Padcal for its operating mine, paid 100 percent of the required regular taxes amounting to P6.6 billion as well as the P3.5 billion in mining-related taxes in the five years to 2015.
He said that P38.6 billion or 69 percent of the P56-billion gross revenue of Philex Mining over a five-year period ending in 2015 was shared by various stakeholders such as employees, contractors and suppliers, while 18 percent or P10.12 billion went to government for taxes and contributions, and 13 percent or P7.3 billion was net income.
“The Padcal mine takes pride in its host towns becoming two of the four first-class municipalities in Benguet, primarily due to the significant economic impact of Philex Mining operations,” he said.
The nine other Benguet towns listed under third, fourth, and fifth economic classes are all into agriculture, he said, while three of the four first-class municipalities are predominantly mining communities.
Nearly $1-T mineral potential
Ramon Clarete, economic professor at the University of the Philippines, said that mineral development, if done properly, could add an additional 1 to 2 percent to the Philippine economy over and above the current levels of 0.7 percent.
With nearly one trillion dollars’ worth of mineral potential for copper, gold, nickel, and iron, the Philippines stands head and shoulders above other mineralized countries in the world. But these mineral resources are usually in the most remote areas of the country where majority of the poor country folks reside.
Carlo Arcilla, director at UP-National Institute for Geological Sciences, said that Secretary Lopez has a “good heart, but she was misinformed.”
“Even if it’s just one percent, it might mean 100 percent to the involved communities. Mining is a complicated business, it’s easy to condemn but it can do a lot of good provided that it is regulated, the environment is protected and the government is willing to listen to experts,” Arcilla said.
Toledo echoed Arcilla’s sentiments, adding that Lopez now has the backing of the entire government arsenal of experts to make proper decisions on the various environmental and technical issues concerning mining.
“I admire Gina Lopez’s advocacy and we need somebody like that, someone who is very passionate, who believes strongly in responsible mining. Maybe it’s about time that we have somebody with that passion, but it is important that now, being already the Secretary, iba kasi yung advocate ka lang, iba na yung ikaw ay isang kalihim [it is different when you are still an advocate, and now that you are already the secretary],” he said.
“Now that you are a secretary, every time that a decision has to be made, you also have to listen to all, you also have to listen to scientific data, evidence, and other information, then you make a decision,” he added.