SAFETY POLICIES. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. meets with Department of Environment and Natural Resources officials at Malacañan Palace on Tuesday (Nov. 22, 2022). Marcos directed the department to require small and large-scale mining firms to comply with policies that ensure safe working conditions for miners. (Photo courtesy of Malacañang)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Tuesday directed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to require small and large-scale mining firms to comply with policies that ensure safe working conditions for mining workers.

In a meeting with DENR officials at Malacañan Palace on Tuesday, Marcos lamented the failure of mining firms, particularly those involved in illegal activities, to provide adequate safety measures inside the mines.

"Ang kawawa diyan ‘yung mga miners. They have no safety. Ang daming namamatay (The miners are victims here. They have no safety. A lot of them die)," he said.

Marcos said there is a need to enhance social protection and security for workers in the mining industry.

"We might be able to access financing, they might be able to access social protection," he added.

He also urged the DENR to address bottlenecks to regulate the small-scale mining industry.

“Gusto natin ma-legalize ang mga small-scale mining firms kasi marami sa kanila illegal, kaya walang protection ang mga minero (We want to legalize the small-scale mining firms because many of them are illegal, so the miners have no protection),” Marcos said.

“Gusto nating palakasin ang regulatory framework para maka-operate sila ng legal, upang mabigyan ang ating minero ng assistance at protection para sa ligtas nilang pagtatrabaho (We want to strengthen the regulatory framework so they can operate legally, to give our miners assistance and protection for their safe work),” he added.

Reducing carbon emissions

Meanwhile, Marcos also underscored the need for the seafaring industry to create habits to help with carbon emission reduction.

He raised the need to “upskill and reskill” the seafaring workforce to address the scheduled shift of ocean-going vessels to green hydrogen as a fuel source from 2030 to 2040.

He said seafarers would need “additional training” to be able to handle alternative fuels to meet global decarbonization objectives.

During the recently-concluded 27th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) in Egypt, leading organizations across the shipping value chain and producers of green hydrogen signed a joint statement committing to the rapid production and use of low-carbon fuels based on green hydrogen to accelerate decarbonization of global shipping.

The shipping sector currently accounts for 3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions but is expected to grow to 50 percent by 2050 without intervention.

Marcos has repeatedly pushed for the development of renewable energy sources to address the problem of high power costs in the country.

In his attendance at the 29th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Bangkok last week, he said the Philippines is currently focused on using renewable energy sources such as hydropower, geothermal power, solar and other low-emission energy sources.

He said his administration is particularly setting a target of a 35 percent share of renewable energy in the power generation mix by 2030 and 50 percent by 2040.

Marcos earlier called for the amendment of the Republic Act (RA) 7076 or the People's Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991 to incentivize small-scale mining and provide social assistance and labor protection for all small-scale miners.

Under the law, small-scale mining refers to a mining activity that relies heavily on manual labor using simple implementations and methods.

RA 7076 also pertains to small-scale mining as an activity that "does not use explosives or heavy mining equipment."

The DENR expressed commitment to review mining laws, including small-scale mining, to ensure that standards are updated and that the provision of the implementing rules and regulations takes full advantage of remote sensing and innovation in artificial intelligence.

Mining accounts for less than 1 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), although the Marcos administration is eyeing the industry to be one of the major contributors to the country’s economic development.

It has been estimated that 70 to 80 percent of small-scale miners in the Philippines operate illegally. (PNA)