Philippines: Churches protest as government lifts mining ban (Independent Catholic News – April 21, 2021)

Ahead of Earth Day, Caritas Philippines, together with several bishops and their dioceses have expressed their concern at President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to lift a nine-year moratorium on new mining deals. They warn that the move could have a catastrophic effect on poor and marginalized communities.

Duterte signed an Executive Order on 14 April, lifting a nine-year moratorium on new mining deals imposed in 2012 by former President Benigno Aquino III, who called on government authorities to check and renegotiate contracts with mining firms in cases of environmental abuse. Aquino’s moratorium also provided a respite to the environment to regenerate its depleting flora and fauna.

The moratorium had been imposed while the government worked on legislation to boost the state’s share of mining revenues. Since 2018, the excise tax on minerals has doubled to 4%. The Philippines became the top supplier of nickel ore to China and a major producer of copper and gold after Indonesia banned exports of unprocessed ore.

Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque explained that the nation said is expecting about US$4 billion in capital investments from three major mining projects. They are expected to generate $800 million in local taxes and $400 million worth of social development projects.

He told the Business World newspaper that indigenous groups are also expected to benefit with around $310,000 in royalties from the major mining projects.

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