The country’s big mining lobby on Tuesday said its members are willing to step up to the challenge of President Rodrigo Duterte for mining companies to strictly follow environmental regulations or shut down.
“We continue to take the President’s statements as a challenge for us in the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) to step up our efforts and practices in adhering to the tenets of responsible mining,” said May Anne Cacdac, communications manager at COMP.
On Monday, Duterte warned mining companies to strictly follow tighter environmental rules or close down, saying the Philippines could survive without a mining industry.
The president also said the country could forego the P40 billion annual revenue miners remit to the government.
Duterte made the announcement in defense of Environment Secretary Regina Lopez’s campaign against illegal and irresponsible mining.
“She is not incompetent, she is a bright lady. She is simply a crusader,” he said.
Miners have accused Lopez of changing the rules in the middle of the game after coming up with a new set of guidelines and standards to audit all operating mines in the country “because an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certification is simply not enough.”
Lopez earlier ordered a stricter audit of all mining operations in the country, imposing even higher standards than that of international firms. The review, which is expected to be completed by this month, covers some 105 metallic and non-metallic mines—including quarrying and small-scale mining.
There are 40 mines operating in the Philippines, of which 40 percent are facing regulatory suspension due to the environmental damage caused by their operations.
Of the total number of operating mines, six were already suspended prior to the official start of the audit ordered by Lopez.
Meanwhile, the COMP denied what the DENR chief claimed, that mining communities benefit minimally from investments and that miners remit only 18 percent of the net to the government.
Lopez said the government does not mind if investment expected from the mining sector over the next 10 years would not take place at all as the country will not benefit from it.
“The prevailing assumption that government only gets 18 percent from mining operations is completely false and baseless,” COMP said.
COMP noted the Foreign Technical Assistance Agreement provides for a 50-50 percent sharing formula with government and when there are windfall profits, government still gets an additional share of 60 percent when the windfall is over 50 percent.
In the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement, government gets a 45-percent share, depending on prices of commodities. But when prices are low, government still gets more than the companies, it added.