Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd is calling for improved governance in the extractive industries to ensure wealth creation and sustainability in natural resources.
In his keynote address during the national conference of the Philippine Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (PH-EITI) at the Manila Hotel on Thursday, Dominguez noted there were times when governance in the extractive sector was weak.
As a result, massive deforestation left the Philippines with only 11 percent of the forest cover it had a century earlier, left the country vulnerable to calamities involving poorly regulated mines.
“The solution is not to arbitrarily ban extractive industries, whatever contractual obligations the government has with investors. The solution is to improve governance so that we get the best of both worlds: ensuring the sustainability of our environment on one hand and creating wealth for our people from our natural endowments on the other,” he said.
Good governance, in contrast, should embolden the Philippines to attract investments in extractive industries, he added.
“A strong governance framework will ensure that mining companies remediate the mining sites. This is, after all, what government is all about: it enables the community to do things, to create wealth that benefits all and to draw from the environment without diminishing it,” he said.
Dominguez assured stakeholders in the extractive industries that the Duterte administration “will be firm but fair” in exercising strong governance while practicing transparency in all its processes and abiding by global best practices in ensuring sustainable development.
“Never again should suspensions be meted out on the basis of unseen audits. Never again should honest industries be subjected to levies without legal basis,” he said.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) closed 23 mining operations and suspend five others after a months-long industry-wide audit.
“One could be environment-friendly and business-friendly at the same time. They are not mutually exclusive inclinations. Only the zealots think they are,” Dominguez said.
Dominguez co-chairs the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) with the secretary of the DENR.
“If we have full disclosure of what was taken and what was earned, then we can have a full accounting of what needs to be remediated and how much the commons deserve. Only full transparency can build an atmosphere of trust among stakeholders. Only full transparency will assure us that businesses are run with integrity and regulations enforced with competence,” he said.
Otherwise, he said, there can only be a cloud of uncertainty, suspiciousness and fear. “With such an unhealthy cloud, there will be no social peace.”