Page last updated at 03:51 Asia/Manila, Thursday, 06 December 2012 PH
There is no question that responsible mining can do much to alleviate mass unemployment and mass poverty in the Philippines, especially in the most remote areas of the country, where most mining reservations are. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the State to ensure that other sectors of the economy do not put up unreasonable and oftentimes illegal obstacles to the rational exploration, development, utilization and conversation of the country's mineral resources. One glaring example of these obstacles is the issuance by Local Government Units (LGUs) of ordinances that are inconsistent with the Constitution and national laws. Executive Order No. 79 provides for the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to coordinate with the LGUs so as to ensure that the exercise of the latter's powers and functions is consistent with and conform to the regulations, decisions, and policies already promulgated and taken by the National Government relating to the conservation, management, development, and proper utilization of the country's mineral resources. Without denying the need for social acceptance of proposed mining projects and activities, the Executive Order calls the attention of LGU heads about conforming to the provisions of RA No. 7942, which is the Philippine Mining Act of 1995. Even Mayors and Governors are not above the law. There have been unfortunate incidents in which LGU heads have illegally defied the provisions of RA No. 7942.
The Executive Order reminds the LGU heads that they shall confine themselves only to the imposition of reasonable limitations on mining activities conducted within their respective territorial jurisdictions that are consistent with national laws and regulations. Of course, LGUs should reasonably expect a fair share of the economic benefits of the mining activities in their respective territories. For this reason, the Executive Order mandates concerned government agencies, in particular the DENR, the Department of Budget (DBM) and the Department of Finance (DOF), to ensure the timely release of the share of LGUs in the National Wealth pursuant to Section 289 of RA No. 7160, or the Local Government Code of 1991. These agencies are likewise directed to study the possibility of increasing LGUs' share as well as granting them direct access to existing arrangements with the Philippine Export Zone Authority (PEZA).
In the past, there have been cases in which national or local government officials have connived with private investors to circumvent certain legal requirements in order to make the proverbial fast buck. The Executive Order addresses this problem by instituting the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) which has the objective of improving transparency, accountability, and governance in the mining sector. The DENR is mandated to ensure that mechanisms are established to operationalize the EITI, in consultation and coordination with the mining industry and other concerned stakeholders.
Another problem that only an efficient State can resolve is the lack of a centralized database for the entire mining industry. Since the State is the owner of all mineral resources of the country, it is only fitting that it is the State that will coordinate the gathering of all available data, including geographical and geodetic information, on the mining industry from all government agencies and instrumentalities. Thus, the Executive Order mandates the creation of a centralized database for the mining industry that will be publicly accessible, transparent, complete, and comprehensive.
Since there will be very specific areas that will be closed to mining operations, as provided for in Section 2 of the Executive Order and in other pertinent laws, rules, and regulations, it is imperative that there be full transparency in mapping the whole country as regards the mining sector. The Executive Order mandates that there be created an integrated map system for the common and uniform use of all government agencies and instrumentalities.
Executive Order No. 79 is a very good example of the application of the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity which should be the foundation of a just and progressive economy. There is a great deal of freedom for private enterprise to be fully active in the exploration, development, utilization, and conservation of the country's mineral resources, despite the constitutional principle that all of these resources belong to the State. The Executive Order, however, makes it very clear that the State has an indispensable and irreplaceable role in ensuring that such societal objectives as protection of the environment, the preservation of the culture of indigenous minorities, and the sustainability of small mining operations can be attained alongside the profitable operations of the mines by large investors. The Executive Order also has sufficient guidelines for private investors in mining--whether large or small--to proactively contribute on their own volition and good will to the attainment of the common good. To my mind, the Executive Order combines the advantages of the market economy with the enlightened intervention of the State and gives ample room for business people and society to exercise their social responsibility in a very strategic sector like mining. For comments, my email address is email@example.com.