P400-M spent for environmental protection in 2016
THE country’s top nickel producer Nickel Asia Corp. (NAC) said Wednesday it spent almost P400 million for environmental protection last year at the height of the crackdown against big mining operations.
At the company’s annual stockholders meeting, NAC President and Chief Executive Officer Gerard Brimo said the amount the company spends on environmental protection alone was a testament that responsible mining in the Philippines is real and that it is happening at NAC.
“Anyone who has been to NAC’s mining communities can see that the programs it has for its host communities are significant in making better people’s lives and in ensuring the proper stewardship over the environment,” Brimo said.
Under the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, mining companies are required to fund environmental protection and enhancement programs (EPEP), which cover mine rehabilitation efforts as well as water and air protection.
It is under EPEP that NAC subsidiaries keep track of the number of hectares of mined-out areas that they rehabilitate—74 hectares total in 201—and the number of trees planted in the rehabilitated areas—recorded at 164,876 seedlings for 2016 alone.
Added to these are the 150 hectares reforested with over 350,000 seedlings planted as part of the National Greening Program of the government.
“But protection of the environment is only one aspect of responsible mining that the public is not too well informed about,” Brimo said, underscoring that the Philippine Mining Act also mandates all mining companies to assist in the development of the host and neighboring communities.
The law mandates respective mining companies to spend 1.5 percent of their annual operating expenses through Social Development and Management Programs (SDMP), under which priority projects are identified and approved by the host communities and the local government units (LGUs).
For 2016, NAC’s mining subsidiaries spent P157 million for SDMP, addressing such community needs as basic health services, helping send 4,154 scholars to school; doubled the number of livelihood beneficiaries; ensuring electricity and clean water access, and socio cultural preservation particularly for the indigenous people in the communities; and upped infrastructure spending to P63 million, which is more than a 100 percent increase from the 2015 figure.
Brimo further said the company further complements its social development expenditures with its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs, which have a separate budget.
Last year, NAC and its subsidiaries spent P178 million for CSR, which achieved the following, among others: a new school building for Taganito National High School in Claver, Surigao del Norte; funding the indigenous learning system (ILS) program and providing free hospitalization for IPs in Palawan.