By Lilybeth G. Ison
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. on Tuesday stressed the need of a long-term plan for the sustainable development of the country’s mineral resources.
“What we face today is global and unabated environmental degradation. What we need today is a new paradigm shift — adopting a new way of thinking that is in line with notions of sustainability,” said Belmonte in his speech during the opening of this year’s Mining Philippines Conference and Exhibition held at the Hotel Sofitel in Pasay City.
“We need to see ourselves not merely as users and beneficiaries of precious natural resources. We have conveniently played out that role for too long. It is high time that we see ourselves as stewards of our country’s mineral resources. For a change, let us give, because we have taken and will continue to take,” he added.
The Speaker said his proposal for a long-term plan for a sustainable development in the country’s mineral resources “involves more processing, more value addition, and more downstream activities.”
“These lead to the development of community-based supplier industries and services. The economic participation of the mining communities is tapped because they are provided with new livelihood opportunities from the downstream and processing activities,” he said.
Belmonte said his long-term plan will also help define the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders, and set an underlying development framework by which all stakeholders can peg their goals and activities on.
“The plan, of course, reflects the official government policies and directions on mining, and serve as the clear basis for development reforms. Inconsistencies in government policies and private sector activities will be avoided because all players will commit themselves to the plan,” he noted.
“I believe that through the development and implementation of a long-term plan for the mining industry, we can finally realize the higher benefits that should accrue not only to your mining firms, not only to our government and our communities, but to the entire Philippine economy,” he added.
The Speaker also cited the importance of “stewardship”, which demands the participation of all stakeholders.
“Stewardship demands a strong sense and acceptance of responsibility which demands the participation of everyone – the government, the mining firms, the communities and the people. It is high time that we see ourselves as stewards of our country’s mineral resources. For a change, let us give, because we have taken and will continue to take,” he said.
According to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), the Philippines has an estimated 14 billion tons of metallic ore deposits and over 69 billion tons of non-metallic ore deposits.
In terms of reserves, the country is third in the world in gold, fourth in copper, and fifth in nickel.
From 2008 to 2011, the mining sector contributed roughly one percent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) each year. In 2011, mining’s contribution to GDP amounted to P99.2 billion.
The sector has also helped generate employment, which has been increasing, from 158,000 in 2008 to 210,000 in 2011.
The mining industry has also contributed to the government’s revenues. Even President Benigno S. Aquino III, in his third state-of-the-nation address (SONA), said that out of P145 billion total production value derived from mining, some P13.4 billion or nine percent went to the national treasury.
In 2011, out of the total production value of P163.2 billion, some P10.4 billion went to the national treasury.
Ultimately, Belmonte said, “we need to ensure that the overall benefits from mining activities unquestionably outweigh the overall costs.”
“Our challenge is enlarging the pie of benefits so that at the end of the day, all stakeholders are properly compensated, and we have the available resources to ensure the proper management and protection of the environment,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rocky Dimaculangan, vice president for communications of the Chamber of Mines, said this year’s Mining Philippines Conference and Exhibition with the theme “Shaping the Future of Philippine Mining,” focuses on transparency, environmental concerns and social responsibility.