Published May 11, 2017, 10:00 PM By Chino S. Leyco
Scrupulous companies engaged in extractive industries will be treated fairly, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, who is co-chairman of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC), assured yesterday following a change in leadership at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
At the Philippine Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (PH-EITI) national conference at the Manila Hotel, Dominguez vowed that the government will be transparent in its policies on extractive sectors, including mining.
“Never again should suspensions be meted out on the basis of unseen audits,” Dominguez said in a speech. “Never again should honest industries be subjected to levies without legal basis.”
The finance chief said that strong governance framework, not an arbitrary ban on extractive sector, will let the country create wealth for the people from the country’s natural resources, while ensuring the sustainability of the environment.
Dominguez also said that the Duterte administration “will be firm but fair” in exercising strong governance, while practicing transparency in all its processes and abiding by global best practices in ensuring sustainable development.
“We need to encourage and not suppress extractive industries. They are necessary to help our economy develop, to bring the revenues that government needs and to create opportunities for the communities that host these industries,” he said.
Dominguez, who co-chairs the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) with the Secretary of the DENR, likewise, expressed his support for the Philippines’ participation in EITI.
He explained the country’s participation in EITI will set standards of honesty and openness, along with benchmarks of responsibility to communities hosting the extractive industries.
He also lauded government agencies, civil society organizations and the local government units (LGUs) involved in the PH-EITI’s “good work” of encouraging all stakeholders to adopt global best practices in governing extractive industries.
“If we have full disclosure of what was taken and what was earned, then we can have a full accounting of what needs to be remediated and how much the commons deserve,” Dominguez said.
He also said “only full transparency can build an atmosphere of trust among stakeholders” and assure the public “that businesses are run with integrity and regulations enforced with competence.”
“Otherwise, there can only be a cloud of uncertainty, suspiciousness and fear. With such an unhealthy cloud, there will be no social peace,” he said.
A former DENR secretary, Dominguez noted that good governance and dialogue were not always the norm in the extractive industries, as he recalled the time when poor governance resulted in massive deforestation and left the country with only 11 percent of its forest cover.
“Businesses engaged in extractive industries were once vilified by environmental zealots. Instead of dialogue and broad agreement on the standards of governance, there was recrimination,” he said.
Dominguez said “poor governance caused us to lose our forests without emancipating our people” which “should never happen again.”’
“Good governance, in contrast, should embolden us to attract investments in extractive industries, confident that we will be able to assure sustainable forestry and mining,” Dominguez said.
“A strong governance framework will ensure that mining companies remediate the mining sites. This is, after all, what government is all about: it enables the community to do things, to create wealth that benefits all and to draw from the environment without diminishing it,” he said.
He said a proper governance framework will enable Filipinos to benefit from investments in extractive industries, which on their end, should always be transparent and vigilant against causing harm to the environment and the people.