By John Carlo Tria
As we move forward in recovery, I believe it is vital that we recognize an economic sector that has its roots in the rural areas and has a foothold in many areas in Mindanao. These are our natural resource-based industries.
Our constitution, specifically article 12, section 2 defines the scope of our natural resources to include minerals and timber, among others. The constitutional provision also includes important portions about how such utilizations may be made, to wit:
“The exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State. The State may directly undertake such activities, or it may enter into co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing agreements”
Moreover, sustainable development principles require us to use resources in a judicious manner that meets the needs of both present and future generations.
With this, it is clear that we are not prohibited from utilizing our natural resources, contrary to the idea pushed by a few I have encountered that these resources ought to be left untouched.
What matters, therefore, is that our natural resources these be used and utilized responsibly. All businesses for that matter, need to managed sustainably and in a responsible manner. Environmental Impact Assessments are required for this purpose, and impacts need to be monitored over time.
Natural resources are indigenous or local. Utilizing them responsibly can create wealth and catalyze many local livelihood and employment opportunities in the countryside and can boost the local economy, driving employment not only in the direct utilization but in its downstream industries and businesses.
In the case of minerals, we possess significant amounts of metallic minerals such as copper, chromite, nickel. We also have non-metallic resources that can be tapped. In my November 2, 2020 column, I wrote about the industry/; (https://mb.com.ph/2020/11/02/possibilities-hope-and-vigilance/)
“Data from the Mines and Geo Sciences Bureau indicate that of the 30 million hectares of land in the Philippines, about 9 million have mineral potential for vital items such as copper, iron, nickel, limestone, and gold.
In all, the mining industry employs 190,000 workers and earning 4.3 Billion dollars in export revenue and contributing 15 billion pesos in taxes, apart from the amounts spent on required livelihood and social development programs.”
The economic benefit can be multiplied further if a downstream mineral processing and metals and non-metals product – based industries take root. Local infrastructure can also be boosted, give its need for cement, reinforcing bars and galvanized iron sheets which all come from locally processed minerals.
With these additional industries deriving local metallic and non-metallic raw materials, expect the total employment to increase even more, and drive the growth of other support businesses and livelihoods, especially in the countryside.
In addition, minerals such as those we have, are vital for technology businesses like telecommunications which use metal components. If we are able to produce these locally from locally available minerals, more manufacturing jobs can be created. This, in turn, helps support other technology-based industries.
With the recent issuance of Executive Order 130 lifting the moratorium on new order prohibiting new mineral projects, there is renewed interest in responsible mining as more mining projects are set to restart.
Implementing the necessary environmental and social safeguards under the 1995 Mining Act will be necessary to ensure that responsible mining practices are observed. (https://mb.com.ph/2021/04/19/36-mines-to-start-operations-soon/)
With these potentials our recovery can be given a needed boost, the minerals sector therefore deserves a deeper look.
The DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau is the steward of our nation’s mineral resources and promotes sustainable mineral resources development.
It would be a good idea to visit their website and see how the environmental and social safeguards, including post mine scenarios and health protocols can be implemented.
In future columns I will discuss other resource-based industries deserving a deeper look.
Continue to stay safe everyone.
This opinion piece first appeared in the Manila Bulletin website last April 21, 2021.