BAGUIO CITY (Nov. 22) — Philippine mining is turning very bullish and industry players display optimism it could break the impasse that has lingered for so many years.
After many years of dormancy, Philippine mining is about to take off this year and more so next year, Ernesto Rodriguez, head of the Philippine Mine Safety and Environment Association (PMSEA) beamed at the start of the yearly three-day mining industry conference on Wednesday afternoon here.
Already surpassing earlier bullish intention of foreign firms to infuse US $6 billion into Philippine mining in the past year, it is reaching US$10 billion up to 2010, Rodriguez said as he sounded with much optimism.
Reportedly infused with billions, the mining industry will help the country so much (in terms of jobs and business opportunities) and the general economy as a whole said Rodriguez in a press conference.
The mineral industry contributed two percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product last year and 21 percent high contribution to the total exports in the 80’s, said Raul Angeles, director of the Mining, Marine Natural Resource-based Products Department of the Board of Investments in his dissertation: “Philippine Minerals Industry and Corporate Social Responsibility”.
The mineral industry which still beams of some US $165.96 billion (metallic) and US $798.69 billion (non-metallic) mineral reserves or a total of US $964.65 billion, is now targeting huge until 2010.
Board of Investments figures show that the mineral industry is poised for 455 approved Exploration Permits (EP) by 2010 from only 4 in 1995, 64 in 2001. It also looks forward to a total of 1,275 approved Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSA) in 2010 from only 35 in 1995 and 169 in 2001. At least 30 approved Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) is seen in 2010 from only two in 1995 and another two in 2001.
Most controversial of the mining agreements is the FTAA because of its wide coverage reaching 81,000 hectares including the 100 percent equity share as provided by the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.
BOI’s Angeles said there will be 590,000 employed mine laborers in 2010 from only 107,000 in 1995 and 104,000 in 2001 while investments will shoot up to P187,975 million in 2010 from only P860,000 in 1995. Exports are expected to reach a high of P2 billion in 2010 from only P566 million in 1995 and P4.1 million in 2001.
Although some problems are stalking the mineral industry, industry leaders admit including the shortage of mining engineers in the country.
Some schools including one in Baguio – Saint Louis University – has closed its mining engineering program, as interest in the field had allegedly waned in the highland Cordillera, the seat of gold and copper mining since the 1900’s.
Industry leaders also lament how the nursing field has gobbled up young folk from mining ventures, hence only the University of the Philippines and only a few schools offer degree programs for mining.
Aside from these the lingering problem on non-acceptance of host communities to large scale mining. Consent by indigenous peoples is one of the problems encountered by mining firms, Engr. Neoman dela Cruz, regional director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Cordillera admits.
Dela Cruz who is continuously being hounded by resistance of indigenous communities on applications MGB is processing in the Cordillera said, his office is working closely with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) for the social engineering in case IP hosts are convinced. “We experience (opposition) in all areas in the Cordillera,” dela Cruz said.
He added though that once IPs remain firm and totally reject applications, “we could not do anything but to advise mining firms to excise the area that is without consent and give permits to those allowed by IP hosts.” # Ace Alegre for NORDIS