Judicious application of political will
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2012-07-15
The release last Monday of Executive Order No. 79 (EO 79) demonstrated another sterling quality of President Noynoy Aquino — the exercise of political will, but judiciously applied. In some cases of exercising political will, a ruler would tend to favor one side of a controversial issue while totally disregarding the arguments of the opposing party — possibly laying the ground for future conflict.

EO 79 reset the guidelines for the controversial mining operations in our country. In issuing EO 79, President Aquino (P-Noy) made the bold moves to stop harmful mining operations like those that destroy our environment, as well as initiate the hiking of the country’s benefits from mining operations.

The mining issue is what could be termed a perfect dilemma. P-Noy could have easily been gored by one or both horns of the dilemma. The two opposing forces were formidable and cannot be totally disregarded without suffering political fallout.

On one hand, we need the revenues. Investors are also watching how we will deal with our mining problems. Investors will hesitate to do business in a country where the playground rules are unpredictable and could be changed overnight. Had P-Noy gone all the way in favor of nationalist, environmentalist and religious groups opposing mining operations, that would have sent the wrong signals to potential investors here.

The most prominent opposition to mining in the religious sector is the Roman Catholic Church. What’s odd is that the Catholic Church has big investments in mining firms. In one of the more sensible statements from Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz, he recently suggested, after the release of EO 79, that the Catholic Church move their mining investments elsewhere. It’s all about putting your money where your mouth is.

Those groups opposing mining operations have justifiable reasons to seek change and reform. Mining is one area where we continue to be exploited by the US. We get too little revenues from mining, a mere 2 percent excise tax. The damage that some mining operations have inflicted on our environment is indeed alarming. Our patrimony cannot be sacrificed for what meager returns we’ve been getting from mining.

P-Noy’s EO 79 struck a good balance between the pros and cons of mining. EO 79 recognized that our country is rich in mineral resources and that their development through responsible mining could push the country towards sustainable development (SD). In pursuing reform in mining operations, P-Noy applied the 3 pillars of sustainable growth and these are economic growth, social development and environmental protection. These 3 pillars were effectively integrated in mining projects and activities. 

Recognizing that our country is rich in biodiversity and that this biodiversity must be properly valued and protected, EO 79 has expanded the “NO GO areas” for mining in addition to those already excluded by the Philippine Mining Act. These new “NO GO areas” include:

1. Prime agriculture lands and strategic environment and fishery zones (SAFDCs) as determined by the Department of Agriculture (DA) to ensure food security;
2. Tourism development areas as determined by the Department of Tourism (DOT), and;

3. Critical areas and island ecosystems as determined by the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

To ensure that these “NO GO areas” are respected, the President has directed the DENR to immediately prepare integrated maps that will show where the NO GO areas including areas covered by CADTs (Certificate for Ancestral Domain Titles) and CALCs (Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claims) are vis-à-vis existing mining projects and mining operations. These maps are to be made accessible to the public to guide everyone including other government agencies, local governments, the private sector, IPs and communities.

To address the revenue issue, the government, led by the Department of Finance (DOF), is studying the existing benefit sharing between mining companies and the government with the end in view of increasing the government take. Simultaneously, the provision of incentives by BOI (Board of Investments) and PEZA (Philippine Economic Zone Authority) will be stopped.

The government through the DENR, DTI (Department of Trade and Industry), DOST (Department of Science and Technology), will also develop through a multi-sectoral and participatory process a road map for more value adding and downstream processing of minerals in the country. As much as possible, we do not want raw ore to just be exported. Our ore should be used to generate jobs and added revenues for Filipinos.

The national government will work for legislation that will allow local government units (LGUs) direct access to their share from mining operations within their respective areas and also possibly increase the LGU share. Earlier, some LGUs threatened to file a case against EO 79. Likewise, the administration will request Congress and the Senate to enact a new mining law that will allow us to earn a justified bigger share of the mining pie.

Small-scale mining operations will only be allowed in duly designated and approved Minahang Bayan areas that the DENR is tasked to establish within 3 months from the issuance of EO 79. Provincial or City Mining Regulatory Boards will be established and operationalized in areas where no such Boards have been set up. The use of mercury in small-scale mining has been strictly prohibited.

Both the Chamber of Mines and the Makati Business Club expressed approval of EO 79. The fears of the LGUs executives were dispelled when they finally knew the contents of the EO. The anti-mining groups welcomed some provisions of EO 79 — in that there were big steps forward from the previous ground rules — but expressed reservations.

What’s important is that the stakeholders and major players have agreed that P-Noy’s EO 79 is a big step in the right direction.

In EO 79, P-Noy proved that he not only possessed political will, but wisdom as well.

* * *

Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

[Click here for the Archive]

Home | As I Wreck This Chair | High Ground | Career Brief and Roots | Advocacies | Landmarks Copyright 2006 The Chair Wrecker by William M. Esposo