Not long ago, the local mining industry was besieged in practical disarray in the wake of the former Department of Environment and Natural Resources secretary’s unabashedly anti-mining stance. At one-point entire operations and pending projects, including the livelihood of thousands, were on standstill, if not altogether compromised, awaiting a decisive move from government and policymakers to resolve a long drawn impasse that has stymied the Philippine mining industry.
As it is, the country’s mineral wealth—estimated by some to be worth more than a trillion dollars—sits underground largely untapped. While other nations with a similar mineral profile such as Australia and even Indonesia have taken strides to take advantage of such wealth, the Philippines has, for the most part, been unable to do the same, mired in prolonged legal and regulatory confusion that Lopez’s crusade only exacerbated.
Months after that unfortunate episode, there appears to be a sliver of clarity policy-wise. Incumbent DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu recently announced plans to possibly amend the controversial Executive Order 79 and DENR Memorandum Order 2016-1, a move that some industry observers say crucially signals the government’s new direction in terms of fixing and clarifying, once and for all, its fiscal regime in mining.
This comes in the heels of a crucial vote by the inter-agency Mining Industry Coordinating Council to officially lift the ban on open-pit mining. Open-pit mining, of course, is a globally accepted method of extracting minerals from the earth and yet demonized and portrayed as heinously destructive and therefore unacceptable.
If the moves push through, the paradigm shift can contribute to unleashing the still untapped potential of the country’s mineral wealth—all in the context of responsible mining. EO 79 and DMO 2016-01 effectively banned any new mining projects all over the country, consequently causing the slowdown of the mining sector.