PHILIPPINES OPINION: Is ‘responsible mining’ possible without strong regulations? – by Cecilia Olivet, Jaybee Garganera, Farah Sevilla and Joseph Purugganan ( – May 24, 2016)

In the last decade, the resource-rich country of the Philippines has bet heavily on the mining industry as a strategy for development, but this focus has come under growing scrutiny.

With 47 large-scale mines in operation and growing evidence of their social and environmental costs, all the presidential candidates in the May 2016’s election were forced to explain their position on, and their financial ties, to the extractive industry.

Most candidates, including newly elected President Rodrigo Duterte, argued for “responsible mining” and an end to “exploitative contracts.” Yet few candidates addressed whether a new Philippines administration could effectively enforce new regulations on a largely foreign-controlled mining industry.

Our briefing paper “Signing away sovereignty: How investment agreements threaten mining regulation in the Philippines” argues that the possibility of properly regulating or even reversing damaging mines will be severely constrained by the network of investment treaties the country has signed which provide excessive protection for foreign investors.

This legal investment straitjacket will only draw tighter if the Philippines proceeds with the EU-Philippines Free Trade Agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, and the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.

Human and environmental costs prompt national movement against mining

The need for further regulation of the mining industry in the Philippines has become ever more obvious since 2004 when mining was declared a priority for “national economic development.” Despite promises of economic growth, industrialization and jobs, the industry contributed less than one per cent of the country’s Gross Development Product. Moreover many mines have been found culpable of illegal demolitions, harassment of residents, polluting of water including the Rapu Rapu Gold Silver Copper and Zinc Mining Project and mining operations in Didipio.

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