Vol. XIX, No. 135
Tuesday, January 31, 2006 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES
BY JUDY T. GULANE, Reporter
Arroyo rejects bishops’ proposal to junk Philippine Mining Act
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo yesterday rejected a call by Roman
Catholic bishops to repeal the Mining Act, which she said would be good
for the economy.
Still, she noted that in opening the country to foreign mining firms, the
government would operate by the principles of "sustainable development,"
and make sure communities are not dislocated by mining activities.
"Our country is one of the richest in terms of mineral resources. It will
be meaningless if we don’t develop these resources," Press Secretary
Ignacio R. Bunye said in a radio interview.
"What is important is to practice sustainable development, and not exploit
our resources, or abuse the environment and our people," he added.
Executive Secretary Eduardo R. Ermita said the government would think of
mitigating measures -- with the participation of the National Commission
on Indigenous Peoples, the Environment department and the police -- to
ensure that indigenous tribes are not displaced by mining concessions.
Mrs. Arroyo, in a speech before participants of a mining conference last
October, said mining would present "the new wave of prosperity" for the
country after information technology.
The government expects at least $2.5 billion in mining investments in 2006
and 2007. It has also identified 23 priority mining projects, which are
expected to bring in foreign direct investment of more than $6.5 billion
between 2005 and 2010.
Also yesterday, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (CMP) said the
Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) proposal would only
compound the country’s economic problems and affect industries other than
CMP President Benjamin Philip G. Romualdez said mining industry
stakeholders were all surprised by the CBCP stand.
"It was such a sweeping statement and it took such an extreme position
against mining. What they are asking will [wreak] havoc on the industry
and the ramifications could be widespread," Mr. Romualdez said.
Meanwhile, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said
repealing the Philippine Mining Act would hurt the economy.
"It is up to Congress to decide whether to repeal the law or not, but we
are saying that mining is a major contributor to the country’s economic
growth," Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Augusto B. Santos told reporters
He said the mining sector surged by 9.3% last year, compared with a 2.6%
growth in 2004, boosted by the policy shift and rising metal prices in the
Mr. Santos noted that as of end-2005, 24 large new and expanded mining
projects had been identified.
These have generated $339.7 million in investments and have created more
than 5,000 jobs.
The Supreme Court in 2004 upheld the validity of the Mining Act, which
allowed foreign companies to operate here.
The CBCP, in a pastoral letter on Sunday, urged the President to repeal
the Mining Act, recall all mining concessions and disapprove pending
applications, citing the hazards to the environment and the people’s
health. It also opposed a plan to cancel next year’s elections, calling
instead for a constitutional convention that would study changes to the
The Palace maintained its preference for a constituent assembly, whose
members will consist of lawmakers.
He added that the President was open to the CBCP’s proposal to set up a
truth commission that would put to rest allegations that she had
her way to power in 2004.
Also yesterday, the chairman of the House constitutional amendments
committee said he was still open to the cancellation of the 2007 elections
despite the CBCP’s objections. Some congressmen, however, maintained their
stance against the postponement of the polls and extension of the terms of
incumbent officials. Opponents say the deferment was being used to bribe
lawmakers into supporting charter change.
Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Constantino G. Jaraula defended the transitory
provision he had included in a working draft of the Constitution being
deliberated by his committee.
The draft defers the 2007 elections to the second Monday of May 2010 and
makes incumbent officials automatic members of parliament until June 20,
Meanwhile, Antique Rep. Exequiel B. Javier and Davao del Sur Rep. Douglas
R.A. Cagas, vice-chairmen of the constitutional amendments committee,
supported the CBCP stand.
Mr. Javier said the church’s "persuasive weight" should influence what
amendments should be approved by the House.
Mr. Cagas, for his part, said elections should take place as scheduled,
since those elected were only given three-year terms.
House Minority Leader Rep. Francis G. Escudero of Sorsogon said the CBCP’s
opposition to the Palace proposal was a sign that it was only a matter of
time before it withdraws support for the Arroyo administration. -- Paul
C.H. How and Jeffrey O. Valisno