THE Philippine Exporters Confederation (PhilExport) is concerned that the directives of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) to cancel 75 mining contracts on top of the 23 closure and five suspension orders may have serious economic repercussions affecting jobs, exports and the supply chain.
Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr., PhilExport president, said the group is alarmed by the latest order of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Gina Lopez to cancel 75 mining contracts on the heels of an earlier order on February 2 to close 23 operations and suspend five others that DENR deemed destructive to the environment.
PhilExport supports sustainable and responsible mining, Ortiz-Luis noted, saying that a sweeping crackdown on the industry would have “serious local and global trade repercussions.”
An imminent danger is the loss of jobs affecting thousands of workers who rely on mining and related-industries for their livelihood, Ortiz-Luis noted, saying that mining companies continue to pay the salaries and benefits of workers even when operations are hampered as a result of the seasonal rains or when calamities strike.
“Where will these people go for jobs and livelihood, not to mention the effects on their dependents and the other stakeholders in the communities hosting them?” he said. “Even if the Environment Department has temporary funds to help the displaced workers, I doubt if these funds can be immediately disbursed.”
Ortiz-Luis said Philippine exports have been weak for nearly two years now because of the slump in global demand, and the closure of mining operations could further worsen the country’s export performance.
At the same time, the crackdown on mining will severely undermine investor confidence and negatively affect the supply chain, the PhilExport chief claimed.
“Secretary Lopez’s action is posing danger not just to the mining sector, but also to other sectors in the supply chain including drilling, construction, hauling and shipping, processing companies, manpower and transportation service providers,” Ortiz-Luis further claimed.
He called for transparency and due process and emphasized cases should be filed and the arbitration clause of the mining agreements invoked in instances where mining and environmental laws have been breached.
“But none of these took place and, instead, these firms are now going through ‘trial by publicity’ that taints the good name they have established for years,” Ortiz-Luis alleged.
PhilExport said that in the case of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), a PhilExport member in good standing for years now, the majority of its members are ISO 14001 certified and several more are undergoing the accreditation process.
The chamber is the mining industry lobby group representing large mining corporations and whose members are affected by the DENR directives.
“They have also been faithful in their duties towards social development and management, environmental enhancement and protection and payment of taxes,” Ortiz-Luis claimed.
Local governments also stand to lose revenue from local taxes, fees and charges as well as shares from the national tax as a result of the closure and suspension order, he said.
Instead of targeting legitimate businesses, Ortiz-Luis said the DENR should focus on “eliminating illegal mining operations that do not pay taxes, nor help in community development and are destructive to the environment.”