House committee convenes expert panel to consolidate mining bills

THE House committee on natural resources has convened a technical working group to consolidate legislation on mining, ore processing and related environmental issues.

The group will consolidate House Bills 5674, 6259, 2165, 2915, and 3229 authored by Rep. Luisa L. Cuaresma (Nueva Viscaya lone district), Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez (Davao del Norte 1st district) et al., Rep. Erlpe John M. Amante (Agusan del Norte 2nd district); Rep. Joseph Stephen S. Paduano (ABANG LINGKOD Party-list); and Rep. Francisco Jose F. Matugas II (Surigao del Norte 1st district), respectively.

Among the proposals being considered is a study on which areas are appropriate for mining in order to avoid environmental complications.

Dr. Rex Victor O. Cruz of the Environmental Forestry Program of the College of Forestry and Natural Resources in the University of the Philippines-Los Baños told the committee the need for comprehensive studies on the impact of mining in watersheds.

“It’s not really trying to prohibit mining in a watershed but trying to prove, really, whether the process of mining in a watershed is good or not,” Mr. Cruz said, noting that the cost, benefits, and environmental impact of mining in the area should be properly assessed.

Lawyer Ronald S. Recidoro, representing the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, said that his organization proposes that the government should fund or offer for public-private partnerships the establishment of ore processing plants.

The Chamber also proposed a surcharge for exporting mineral deposits, as practiced in Indonesia. He said this will incentivize mining companies to put up processing plants while taxing those who cannot.

“We need to find a tax rate that will not kill the industry — something that the miners can live with and will give the government its fair share,” Mr. Recidoro said.

The Chamber also proposed the creation of mining industry zones to help encourage the clustering of processing plants, making them more attractive to investors.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) called for more extensive disclosures on beneficial ownership for mines, particularly for owners or shareholders who are politically exposed.

NEDA also proposed reducing the period of mineral agreements from 50 years to 20 years and mineral processing operations from 30 years to 20 years. — Minde Nyl R. Dela Cruz