Published February 20, 2017, 10:00 PM By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
Businesses from the Caraga Region, one of the country’s poorest regions and host to 25 large scale mining operations, have urged the government to grant mining firms a ten-year transition period to go into mineral processing from the current pure exports of raw ore materials as they warned of dire consequence on the local economy and employment if the closure order is implemented immediately.
The Surigao Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI), a local member of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, passed Resolution No. 001 on February 17, 2017, recommending five actions to ensure sustainable mining development in the Caraga region or Region 13.
Caraga, which has Surigao del Norte as its center, ranks fourth poorest region in the country with Agusan del Sur among top 10 poorest. The region is composed of five provinces: Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte, and Surigao del Sur.
“This shift to minerals processing shall be provided with a transition period of ten years at 10 percent raw ore export reduction annually,” the resolution stated.
According to the SCCI, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and the Department of Trade and Industry should promote the establishment of minerals processing industries so that export products will be processed minerals instead of raw mineral ores for value adding and jobs generation.
The transition period will also give time to the affected mining companies to be able to adjust and comply with the standards and requirements of the DENR. Compliance to requirements must be implemented in close coordination with the DENR and MGB.
In opposing the DENR order, the SCCI even taunted the statement of DENR Secretary Gina Lopez that the Philippines can live without mining since the industry contributes only about 1 percent of the national gross domestic product (GDP) stressing this figure is based on the national perspective and does not reflect the real situation in the province and region.
According to SCCI, the 25 large scale mining operations in Caraga contribute directly and indirectly 28.5 percent to 32.5 percent of the gross regional domestic product (GRDP), provide 98 percent of regional exports, employ around 28,000 skilled personnel and currently considered as the backbone of the regional economic growth.
Given this situation, SCCI warned that sudden closure and suspension of mining companies will result in large displacement of labor in the province and ending of scholarship assistance to the recipients.
Closure and suspensions will also lead to slow down of economic ancillary activities such as suppliers of food products and transportation services in the host community.
On the granting of sufficient time for these firms to comply, the SCCI this must be implemented in close coordination with DENR and the MGB.
The business group also recommended that policy makers shall consider the regional impact of present and future policies governing the mining industry.
DENR and MGB shall continue to enforce strict implementation of responsible mining practices.