Mining investments in Philippines to reach $348 million in 07

May. 22, 2007

MANILA — Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes sees brighter prospects for the mining industry this year with investments projected to reach $348 million.

Reyes said the expansion of the HPAL facility in Coral Bay in Palawan would bring in a$154 million, the continuing rehabilitation of the Carmen copper project in Cebu would bring in $97 million, and a gold project in Masbate, $36 million.

Another $23-million investment was expected from the construction of the base metal plant of TVI in Zamboanga del Norte and $21 million from the construction and development of the Didipio copper-gold project in Nueva Vizcaya, he said.

Since the mining industry was revitalized in January 2004, Reyes said a total of $694 million in investments has been generated. These investments are expected to rise further between now and 2010 as ongoing projects advance in stage.

As the projects advance in their development, additional direct employment is created in the areas where the projects are located. This augurs well for the governments employment and poverty reduction program, Reyes said.

Some 3,000 new jobs are expected to be generated this year, on top of the 6,500 jobs created since 2004, according to Reyes.

Reyes said that if the priority projects materialized, the value of metallic and non-metallic minerals would grow to $1.385 billion this year, up from $1.282 billion in 2006, while minings share to total exports would rise to 9 percent this year.

These levels, to the DENRs belief, are reflective of the countrys mineral wealth and will elevate the Philippines to a mining country, he said.

In 2006, the mining industrys gross production was valued at P68.4 billion. Total exports of mineral and mineral products amounted to $2.06 billion, while taxes, royalties and fees from mining reached P3.1 billion. Employment from mining rose to 141,000.

The Philippines has 18 medium to large-scale mines, including the controversial polymetallic mine in Rapu-Rapu island in Albay that was allowed to resume operations in February following months of suspension due to a mine tailing spill in late 2005.

On top of these, there are 23 projects in advanced stage and 41 others in a stage of exploration, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Reyes admitted that instituting reforms in the industry was never easy since there would always be two groups who would agree or disagree to these.

He said he expected to continue to tangle with non-government organizations over the adverse effects of the government policy to revitalize the industry, but said the best option was to engage them.

Reyes had come under criticism over his decision to lift the suspension on the operation of Lafayette-run mine in Rapu-Rapu island.

While met differently by different sectors, the DENR believes that it made the right decision in Rapu-Rapu, he said.

In view of the incidents that had tainted the image of the industry, Reyes said he expected the foreign mining investors to employ the best practices and comply with Philippine laws and standards when they operate here.

It was imperative, he stressed, for mining companies to build long-lasting relationships with the communities and local government units, and educate them on the risks and impacts of their projects.

Any effort to engage with the stakeholders should be anchored on sincerity and trustworthiness, not just for mere compliance with regulations or lip service, he said. In the bottomline, the mining operation must contribute to real community development not just provide dole-outs to communities.

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