Green dreams: Duterte and the Philippine mining industry – by by Robert Veldhuizen (Global Risk Insights – November 7, 2016)

Throughout its history, the Philippine mining industry has been defined by its diverse set of political risks relating to governance, inequality, elitism, foreign export and absent contribution towards the country’s overall economic growth. President Duterte’s nomination spells a radically different future for the industry; unprecedented opportunities may lie ahead for foreign investors, however they are not without risk.

Pervading problems

Since the 1500s, mining has played a critical part in the economic development of the Philippines. Despite the abundance of chromite, copper, gold and nickel deposits, the industry has been marred, since the 1980s, by issues of volatility, and defined to a realm of ‘potential’—rather than direct opportunity.

Issues that have and continue to plague the industry range from matters of foreign ownership, corruption, obdurate and unforced regulatory laws, environmental incidents, murky issues of land rights, militant attacks, as well as disastrous weather conditions.

These problems within mining play into established socio-economic pressures within the Philippines and form a pervading sense of frustration and sensitivity amongst many Filipinos—exposed to the turbulent realities of a rapidly developing nation, stuck between the First and Third World.

Green dreams

Observers note President Duterte’s ascent to the Presidency, as a reaction towards the multitude of issues the country faces due to its rapid growth. Promises to crackdown and cleanup many of its these issues saw Duterte go against drug use and trafficking, corruption, elitism, and the centralization of the country’s political-economic power in Manila—a strong proponent of federalization.

According to Duterte, mining was the hallmark of the country’s extensive problems, referring to the mining firms as ‘predatory’, and that the ‘true winners’ of the industry hailed from “imperial Manila”, in place of local communities. He defined this situation as a longstanding “historical injustice”, and one he vehemently sought to amend.

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