By Joe Zaldarriaga

Realizing growth, economic development, sustainability through mining

September 25, 2023, 11:21 am

With the vast mineral resources of the Philippines, mining has immense potential to become a major economic driver for the Philippines. However, we have yet to fully develop this industry. Challenges such as policy issues, and environmental and safety concerns have hindered the growth of the local mining industry for years, and as a result, have also limited its contribution to our economy.

Mining has long been overlooked in terms of economic contribution but it has effectively done its part as a sector of the economy. It helped tremendously keep the economy afloat during the pandemic—emerging as one of the most stable and least affected industries by the global economic slowdown.

Data from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau show that employment in the mining industry even had a slight increase to 184,000 in 2020 from 182,000 the year before despite the many restrictions that limited business activities in the majority of industries worldwide.

Today, more opportunities for the mining industry are emerging with the growing demand for green metals such as nickel and lithium as the world moves to accelerate the adoption of clean and green technology.

Demand for minerals is expected to be sustained, with new technologies driving digitalization, economic growth, and social development across the world. This global shift highlights an urgent opportunity to further develop our local mining industry.

During the 2023 Mining Conference last week, Philex Mining chairperson Manuel V. Pangilinan (MVP) made a compelling case for the development of the mining industry as he emphasized the sector’s importance in promoting sustainability through the development of green technologies.

“The world is entering an era of sustained resource demand as economies expand and population explodes. The Philippines missed the economic bus during the manufacturing cycle in the 50’s and 60’s, and the export boom in the 70’s and 80’s. This time we cannot miss this bus yet again, with our available mineral resource base,” he said.

“I would then argue that in many respects, sustainability rests on green technology and, by extension, reliance on mining would continue,” he added.

Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual also underscored the importance of the mining industry in economic growth as he noted the government’s push to promote the development of the green metals sector.

“There is a tremendous opportunity to use the extractive industry’s potential to propel long-term economic growth. Philippine companies have several opportunities in mining and mineral processing,” he said.

Mining has a huge potential to spur regional economic growth, generate employment in local communities, and become a major revenue source for the government through the taxes paid by mining companies.

With all the opportunities in the industry, it would be a disservice to our country to shun mining due to challenges and risks instead of finding a way to responsibly and sustainably utilize our mineral resources.

As MVP emphasized: "Mining is not the enemy, but poverty is. The most damaging myth in which our industry must contend with is the idea that we must choose between sustainability and mining. We should forge ahead together as one industry, in unity, in strength, and do the right things for our people and for our planet."

Realizing the full potential of our mining industry sustainably and responsibly requires the cooperation of all stakeholders–the government, private sector, and local communities.

More than developing the infrastructure to maximize economic benefits, the mining industry should also evolve to address criticisms such as safety, labor practices, as well as environmental impact. A holistic approach to the development of the mining industry is necessary to achieve the collective benefit sustainably and to ensure that the next generation can gain from it as well.

All opportunities come with responsibilities. In any industry, realizing the full potential of an opportunity always comes with risks—that, if approached sustainably, can lead to shared benefits for all.

At the end of the day, it is value creation, that both government and the private sector should always consider, and with it economic growth, job generation, and improvement in lives that cannot be far behind.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Presidential Communications Office.


About the Columnist

Image of Joe Zaldarriaga

Joe Zaldarriaga is a veteran, award-winning communicator immersed in public service within and beyond the energy sector. He has more than 30 years of experience serving the country’s biggest electric distribution utility and is involved in a number of public service functions, as member of various committees on public safety, power supply security and electrification. Concurrently, he is a prominent figure in the Philippine communications industry, as Chairman and Past President of the US-based International Association of Business Communicators Philippines (IABC PH). He is also an awardee of the University of Manila’s Medallion of Honor (Dr. Mariano V. delos Santos Memorial) and a Scroll of Commendation, a testament to his celebrated years in public service exemplified by outstanding communications.

Joe also shares his opinion and outlook on relevant national and consumer issues as a columnist in several prominent publications and is now venturing into new media via hosting a new vlog called Cup of Joe. Previously, Joe was a reporter and desk editor of a Broadcasting Company and the former auditor of the Defense Press Corps of the Philippines. A true green Lasalian, he finished with a degree in Asian Studies specializing in the Japan Studies program at De La Salle University, Manila, where he also spent his entire education.