Industry dialogues and increased engagement with the public are needed if mining firms are to move past the policy upheavals of recent months, a businessman said.
Dante Bravo, president of Global Ferronickel Holdings, Inc. (FNI), told The Manila Times on Monday that the industry was still in the “honeymoon stage” with Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, who replaced Regina “Gina” Lopez in May.
Lopez shook up the industry by cracking down on environmental violators, cancelling permits and ordering the closure of nearly two dozen mines accounting for a sizeable chunk of the Philippines’ nickel output.
Among those affected were FNI subsidiaries Platinum Group Metals Corp., whose Surigao operations were ordered closed, and Ipilan Nickel Corp., whose environmental permit was cancelled.
Cimatu has so far upheld Lopez’s orders pending a review and just recently the Environment department issued a cease and desist order against Ipilan.
Department officials, however, last month also raised the possibility that Lopez’s ban on open pit mining could be lifted.
While Cimatu is viewed as “friendlier” to the industry, Bravo said: “We’re still in the honeymoon stage. There’s not much of a really meaningful dialogue … how to address the orders issued by Gina Lopez, pending bills in Congress, [and]the matter of public perception.”
“I think there was so much misinformation that happened during Gina Lopez’s time and so it’s very hard to recover from that because naturally people are drawn to entertain more negativity rather than the positive things that we do,” he said.
“[T]he government, particularly the regulatory agencies, are much aware of what we’ve been doing good in the areas that we operate [in], but those don’t get published, so there’s trouble,” he claimed.
FNI has taken actions to counter the issues raised against its units, filing a motion for reconsideration. A review supposed to be conducted by the interagency Mining Industry Coordinating Council has yet to be completed.
“We’re really hopeful because as I said, [the cases]are unlawful, there’s no basis at all. So, we hope that they’re going to resolve it soon,” Bravo said.
The FNI official said mining sector would recover and increase its focus operations and compliance with regulatory requirements.
“The regulatory landscape has been there. It’s efficient, it’s working. I don’t think that needs to be disturbed,” he claimed.