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Foreign chambers OK open-pit ban end

By Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson

THE Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) of the Philippines said the government’s decision to rescind the ban on open-pit mining has been “a long time coming” and will encourage more investment.

The JFC said in a statement that it “welcomed the terms and conditions set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for open-pit mining operations to ensure these will be environmentally and socially sustainable.”

“It’s been a long time coming and overdue. Metallic mining can be a major boost to the economy, particularly in rural areas in terms of employment and income,” Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines President Julian H. Payne said in a phone interview.

“It’s one of the areas that you can get a significant increase in gross domestic product (GDP) over the long term. It’s not a quick fix, but in the long run, it has huge potential,” he added.

The DENR lifted the four-year ban on open mining, which superseded an order issued by the late Secretary Regina L. Lopez in 2017.

Open-pit mining allegedly results in negative impacts on the environment, such as erosion and the leak of chemicals such as cyanide into surrounding water systems.

“Everybody recognizes that there can be a deleterious impact if it is not conducted and operated in a socially and environmentally responsible way, which in many countries it is, notably in Canada and Australia,” Mr. Payne said. “Mining is not necessarily a disadvantage to the environment; in fact, in some cases it actually improves it.”

“I think the assumption that open-pit mining inevitably leads to a deteriorated environment is incorrect. It may or may not, it depends on how it is managed. It can be socially and environmentally responsible, that depends on what conditions the government sets. Whether they are effectively implemented and complied with, that is always an open question,” he added.

Mr. Payne said that the nongovernment sector can help keep illegal miners in check by “keeping an eye on things and bring attention to the government in cases where there is obvious noncompliance.”

“One cannot say that nongovernment organizations (NGOs) are anti-mining. Some are ideologically anti-mining, but some others are in good faith and serve as a watchdogs to help the government,” he added.

He also said not to be discouraged by mining disasters of the past, as the laws in place are different from now.

“It fails to take into account that mining, like every other industry, evolves in terms of safety practices, as does the government and its regulations. To presume that just because a disaster happened 25 years ago, is going to happen today, presumes that nothing has changed in the technology of mining or in the regulatory competence of the government,” Mr. Payne said.

The JFC is composed of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Australian-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Chamber of Commerce, European Chamber of Commerce, Japanese Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Korean Chamber of Commerce and the Philippine Association of Multinational Companies Regional Headquarters, Inc.

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