Guillermo Luz, private sector representative to the Economic Cluster of the Cabinet, told reporters at the Futuristics Society forum in Makati on Friday that the Minerals Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) will meet on Friday, August 22, to thresh out some kinks in the proposed new mining bill.
“The most contentious is still the revenue sharing,” Luz said citing the industry’s opposition but hastened to add that it is not the only issue.
“Some private guys even tell me they don’t like the ‘no go’ zone. How can that be when we have some environmental protection issues here,” said Luz.
“I tell foreign investors, there is no way the government can have complete open policy that there is ‘no go’ and ‘go zone.’ We have laws that outline the ‘go and no go’ zones already so this just a matter of enforcement. There is a bit of play but there are certain laws in place already. We cannot change those, and if we will, it will take long amendments. So, I don’t think that’s contemplated,” Luz stressed.
These laws are embedded in the environmental laws, like the integrated protected areas, he said.
Luz said that the “no go” mining zone is a non-negotiable.Under Executive Order 79 signed by President Aquino on July 6, 2012, the areas identified as “no-go” mining zones have been expanded to include 78 tourism sites, and farms, marine sanctuaries and island ecosystems in response to the public clamor to protect the environment from mining.
He, however, said the government is open to listening to the private sector’s stand on revenue sharing. Under the MICC-approved revenue sharing scheme, the government will take 55 percent of the industry’s net revenues or 10 percent of gross revenue, whichever is higher.
Luz has also acknowledged the urgency in passing the bill although he noted the legislative measure is still a part of the administration’s priority bills.
“The need to pass the bill is also made urgent because the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative review is coming soon. So, we have to do something,” he said.
The Philippines has sought to become an EITI compliant. So far, there are 25 IETI compliant countries, 16 candidate countries, including the Philippines, and 35 countries that have produced EITI reports.
He, however, equally stressed the need to carefully craft the new mining bill because “unlike other industries mining is something that if you make a mistake you have to live with that mistake for a long time but you will also live with the benefit if you make the right decision.”
“But we need to make a decision because mining can be a big part of any economy, it is a major contributor to the economy like the economies of Peru, Brazil, Chile, Canada, Australia,” he said.
Luz also noted of the negative impression formed by the foreign mining investors, who have been on a wait and see for awhile. The nil investments in the mining sector has been blamed to the delay in the passage of the new mining law.
“This is understandably so because they cannot move unless government policies are made public,” he said.
Once the MICC has finalized the proposed new Mining Act, Luz said, it will go the economic cluster of the Cabinet and to Malacañang and then for filing in Congress.
Written by: Bernie Magkilat