MANILA -- The government's call to put up more mineral processing plants in the country should be backed by incentives and assistance to achieve sustainability in the mining sector.

This was stated Tuesday by LPGMA Party-list Representative Arnel U. Ty at the opening of the Mining Philippines 2017 International Conference and Exhibition held at the Sofitel Hotel in Pasay City.

"There is no debate on the need to responsibly harness the virtually untapped mineral wealth of our country," said Ty in his speech.

At the House of Representatives, Ty said, "there is a measure to ban the export of raw ores, coupled with the necessity of putting up processing plants."

"There should be proper assistance and incentives to make investments in mineral processing attractive and competitive with other countries in the region," he noted.

Ty said there must be a balance in determining a new revenue sharing scheme between the mining sector and the government.

"For any industry to grow, there must be harmony in government policy. In mining, a misalignment has developed between national and local laws and has resulted in lost opportunities to much needed investments that would have benefitted the poor areas of the country. This impasse which has affected the country’s competitiveness must be resolved soon," he noted.
The solon said a good policy "should prove to be responsive in the very long-term."

"In mining terms, this means 25, 50 years and even more. A policy regime that will outlast many political cycles ensuring the needed multi-generational stability for the host communities and its people. This will set-up a competitive investment climate that will encourage the right investors who have the capacity and competence to bring in the latest technologies and practices that can more than comply with the environmental and safety regulations," he said.

The ongoing revenue generating reforms of the government, just like mining, Ty said, is getting its share of criticisms and cries of concern from affected sectors.

"Any changes in revenue sharing policy must consider the sensitivities in global competitiveness. Models for proposed changes in mining taxes must be tested carefully to maintain a fair balance and not cause any disadvantage to the industry’s sustainability," he said.

The Philippines is the world's top supplier of nickel ore, and one of the major producers of copper and gold.

At present, the multi-sectoral Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) is reviewing the mining industry’s current fiscal regime.

Meanwhile, Ty also emphasized the need for the government to step up its implementation of the mining law.

"Legislative reforms will be useless if we cannot implement them. Mining needs heavy regulation because of the high risks involved in its operations. The ability of government to strictly regulate mining operations will be critical," he said.

According to him, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) must be fully equipped with the best technologies and professionals to strictly monitor and enforce regulations to all mineral extraction operations, from the biggest mining companies to the smallest.

"This gravity of the DENR’s mission cannot be over-emphasized as the consequences of failure threatens not just economic damage but can lead to tragic loss of lives. As legislators, this is beyond our sphere of influence. We can only benefit from mining if government can enforce mining laws," he said.

This year's theme of the three-day annual Mining Philippines conference is "Responsible Mining: Moving Beyond Compliance."

Ty said the concept of moving "towards sustainable mining" as adopted by mining industry in Canada "should inspire us to adopt its principles and protocols to effectively mitigate the mining risks."

"To move towards self-regulation, we will need Herculean efforts from all stakeholders and an infinite amount of patience and understanding from government, the church, civil society, indigenous people, the allied industries of mining and all who are touched by mining," he said.

"I look forward to genuinely responsible mining industry that will even become a model for all industries," he added.

For his part, Ronald Recidoro, the new executive director of Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), said the conference will focus on re-defining responsible mining.

"In the coming days, we will be hearing stakeholders from various fields discuss what we are already doing on the grounds and what we should be doing to enhance our impacts not just on the environment but also in the communities that host our operations," he said. (PNA)