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May 27, 2024
Mines and Geosciences Bureau Central Office (MGB-CO) technical personnel participated in the Palawan Stakeholders' Congress on Mining and the Environment (PSCME) held last April 24-26, 2024 in Puerto Princesa City. With the theme: "Yours, Mine, Ours," the stakeholders’ congress was organized by the Provincial Government of Palawan. The Congress brought together representatives from national government agencies, local government units, the academes, and the private sectors. Engr. Jennica Estepa-Lagan and Engr. Jaypee D. Juanerio of MGB-CO served as resource speakers on Compliance, Monitoring, and Enforcement. Engr. Estepa-Lagan discussed the topic of Compliance and Monitoring, focusing on MGB Memorandum Circular No. 2018-02. This Circular provides guidelines for compliance monitoring and rating/scorecard of mining permits/contracts. It aims to create an efficient monitoring system using checklists and performance scorecards to verify mining contractors’ compliance. Contractors must achieve an overall performance rating of 80%, with no score below 75% in any category, to be compliant. The monitoring system covers mining tenements such as Exploration Permits (EP), Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSA), and Financial or Technical Assistance Agreements (FTAA). Regular field monitoring ensures adherence to work programs, environmental protection, and safety standards. Meanwhile, the Multipartite Monitoring Team (MMT) inspections and SHES (Safety, Health, Environment, and Social) audits further assess compliance with environmental and safety regulations. Engr. Estepa-Lagan emphasized that a robust compliance monitoring system promotes transparency, accountability, and sustainability in mining operations, contributing to the nation's economic well-being and poverty alleviation efforts. Engr. Juanerio, on the other hand, presented on the topic of Enforcement, the definition of illegal mining, and the outline of the prohibited acts with penalties based on Republic Act Nos. 7942 and 7076. He explained the complaint handling process through DENR Action Center Hotline 8888, or the MGB Central Office, and the issuance of Cease-and-Desist Orders. Engr. Juanerio also detailed MGB's authority to deputize personnel and emphasized collaboration with various agencies on enforcing environmental laws. He also highlighted strategies such as formalizing small-scale mining and using drones for surveillance. The way forward includes amending laws for stricter penalties, hiring more MGB-embedded personnel, and enhancing monitoring technology. He stressed continuous legal improvements and agency collaboration to combat illegal mining effectively. The said event also featured discussants which include Atty. Edmund Jones Gastanes of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples Palawan, Mr. Felizardo B. Cayatoc, PENR Officer Palawan, and Ms. Glenda I. Manalo-Cadigal of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, who contributed insights on Compliance, Monitoring, and Enforcement.
May 27, 2024
Mines and Geosciences Bureau Central Office (MGB-CO) technical personnel participated in the Palawan Stakeholders' Congress on Mining and the Environment (PSCME) held last April 24-26, 2024 in Puerto Princesa City. With the theme: "Yours, Mine, Ours," the stakeholders’ congress was organized by the Provincial Government of Palawan. The Congress brought together representatives from national government agencies, local government units, the academes, and the private sectors. Engr. Jennica Estepa-Lagan and Engr. Jaypee D. Juanerio of MGB-CO served as resource speakers on Compliance, Monitoring, and Enforcement. Engr. Estepa-Lagan discussed the topic of Compliance and Monitoring, focusing on MGB Memorandum Circular No. 2018-02. This Circular provides guidelines for compliance monitoring and rating/scorecard of mining permits/contracts. It aims to create an efficient monitoring system using checklists and performance scorecards to verify mining contractors’ compliance. Contractors must achieve an overall performance rating of 80%, with no score below 75% in any category, to be compliant. The monitoring system covers mining tenements such as Exploration Permits (EP), Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSA), and Financial or Technical Assistance Agreements (FTAA). Regular field monitoring ensures adherence to work programs, environmental protection, and safety standards. Meanwhile, the Multipartite Monitoring Team (MMT) inspections and SHES (Safety, Health, Environment, and Social) audits further assess compliance with environmental and safety regulations. Engr. Estepa-Lagan emphasized that a robust compliance monitoring system promotes transparency, accountability, and sustainability in mining operations, contributing to the nation's economic well-being and poverty alleviation efforts. Engr. Juanerio, on the other hand, presented on the topic of Enforcement, the definition of illegal mining, and the outline of the prohibited acts with penalties based on Republic Act Nos. 7942 and 7076. He explained the complaint handling process through DENR Action Center Hotline 8888, or the MGB Central Office, and the issuance of Cease-and-Desist Orders. Engr. Juanerio also detailed MGB's authority to deputize personnel and emphasized collaboration with various agencies on enforcing environmental laws. He also highlighted strategies such as formalizing small-scale mining and using drones for surveillance. The way forward includes amending laws for stricter penalties, hiring more MGB-embedded personnel, and enhancing monitoring technology. He stressed continuous legal improvements and agency collaboration to combat illegal mining effectively. The said event also featured discussants which include Atty. Edmund Jones Gastanes of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples Palawan, Mr. Felizardo B. Cayatoc, PENR Officer Palawan, and Ms. Glenda I. Manalo-Cadigal of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, who contributed insights on Compliance, Monitoring, and Enforcement.
May 13, 2024
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is now working on closing the gaps to complete the 3.17-kilometer Panguil Bay Bridge Project which will soon become the longest sea-crossing bridge in Mindanao. In his report to DPWH Secretary Manuel M. Bonoan, DPWH Senior Undersecretary Emil K. Sadain said that the inter-island bridge project in Northern Mindanao is currently 90 percent completed, with only 38.75-meter gap to link the superstructure from Tangub City, Misamis Occidental to Tubod, Lanao del Norte. “We are currently rushing works on both side of the Tangub and Tubod approaches as well as the remaining three (3) gaps to fully connect the whole Panguil Bay Bridge,” said Senior Undersecretary Sadain who led an inspection of the project on Thursday, May 9, 2024, together with DPWH OIC-Project Director Teresita V. Bauzon of Unified Project Management Office - Roads Management Cluster 2 (Multilateral), and representatives from the design and build contractor Namkwang Engineering & Construction Corporation in joint venture with Kukdong Engineering & Construction Co., Ltd. and Gumgwang Construction Co., Ltd. According to Senior Undersecretary Sadain, the Panguil Bay Bridge is among the infrastructure flagship projects of the Department, having been initiated in the previous administration and continued under the term of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., as it is seen as a landmark infrastructure that would boost economic growth of Mindanao. When completed, this will be able to reduce travel time between Tangub City, Misamis Occidental and Tubod, Lanao del Norte to only seven (7) minutes, from the current travel time of one (1) and a half hour to two (2) and a half hour via Roll-On, Roll Off (RoRo) or land travel with over a distance of 100 kilometers. The project is funded through a loan agreement between Government of the Philippines (GOP) and Korean Export-Import Bank (Korea Eximbank). The Panguil Bay Bridge Project commenced civil works in 2020 amidst the challenges posed by the pandemic, navigating through unprecedented circumstances to fulfill its objectives. However, it faced additional hurdles due to insufficient fund allocation, further complicating its progress and implementation. “Despite these setbacks, the project persevered, demonstrating DPWH resilience and underscores the commitment of President Marcos administration to advancing vital infrastructure projects that will contribute to the nation's progress and prosperity under Bagong Pilipinas,” added Senior Undersecretary Sadain.   Article courtesy of The Department of Public Works and Highways
April 14, 2024
The Philippines, the United States and Japan on Friday expressed intent to advance their trilateral cooperation on clean energy. The commitment was made during the historic trilateral summit of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the White House in Washington DC. In a joint statement, the three leaders acknowledged the existential threat of the climate crisis, and cited the need to take urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with a 1.5 degrees Celsius warming limit, and accelerate efforts to build clean energy economies. “Our three nations seek to expand trilateral cooperation in the Philippines on the deployment of clean energy technologies, including renewable energy projects such as solar and wind, to support energy requirements in the Philippines and help ensure a just energy transition,” they said. “Japan, the Philippines, and the United States are working together to expand cooperation for the transition to clean energy and create high-standard, clean energy supply chain jobs across our three nations through the mutually beneficial development of resources in clear, transparent, and fair market competition with strong protections for labor rights and the environment.” Marcos, Biden and Kishida also sought to expand the three nations’ partnership on safe and secure civil-nuclear capacity building, as they recognized the Philippines’ request for further training and capacity building for nuclear scientists, engineers, and relevant personnel and policymakers. Under the Foundational Infrastructure for Responsible Use of Small Modular Reactor Technology (FIRST) program, the US and Japan plan to co-host a nuclear energy study tour in Japan for nuclear experts and policy decision-makers from the Philippines and other FIRST partner countries. “We also plan to deepen trilateral cooperation on civilian nuclear workforce development through a trilateral dialogue this year, to advance the Philippines’ civil nuclear energy program,” the three leaders said. They welcomed the first Nuclear Energy Summit in Brussels on March 21. Over 35 countries, including Japan, the Philippines, and the United States, will participate in the event. They also expressed support for critical minerals industries as a way to promote resilient and reliable global supply chains for critical minerals. “We share the goal of producing and supplying battery materials and batteries for electric vehicles and energy storage systems for the global marketplace. The United States, under the International Visitor Leadership Program, plans to manage a clean energy supply chain training program for select participants from Japan and the Philippines,” they said. “In addition, the United States and Japan look forward to the Philippines being a founding member of the Minerals Security Partnership Forum, which signifies an important step towards securing and diversifying our collective clean energy supply chains.” Reduction of nuclear risks Meantime, Marcos, Biden and Kishida called for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, as they condemned the North Korea’s “escalatory threats and unprecedented number of ballistic missile launches, including multiple intercontinental ballistic missile launches, which pose a grave threat to peace and security.” They said North Korea’s actions have “severe security implications” for the Indo-Pacific and European regions. “We strongly urge the DPRK to comply with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, and refrain from continued development, testing, and transfer of ballistic missiles to any country, including Russia, which has used these missiles against Ukraine,” they said. “As we continue to affirm our commitment to international law, including the United Nations Charter, we reiterate our unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.” They said the threats of nuclear weapon use in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are “unacceptable,” adding that any use of a nuclear weapon “would be completely unjustifiable.” "To that end, we recall the United Nations General Assembly resolutions stating that no territorial acquisition resulting from the threat or use of force shall be recognized as legal,” they said. They also urged nuclear weapon states to promote stability and transparency, as well as engage in substantive dialogue on reducing nuclear risks. “We reaffirm our joint pursuit of a world without nuclear weapons, with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as its cornerstone,” the three leaders said. “As founding members of the ‘FMCT (Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty) Friends,’ we also call for the immediate commencement of long-overdue negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.”
April 14, 2024
The Philippines, the United States and Japan on Friday expressed intent to advance their trilateral cooperation on clean energy. The commitment was made during the historic trilateral summit of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the White House in Washington DC. In a joint statement, the three leaders acknowledged the existential threat of the climate crisis, and cited the need to take urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with a 1.5 degrees Celsius warming limit, and accelerate efforts to build clean energy economies. “Our three nations seek to expand trilateral cooperation in the Philippines on the deployment of clean energy technologies, including renewable energy projects such as solar and wind, to support energy requirements in the Philippines and help ensure a just energy transition,” they said. “Japan, the Philippines, and the United States are working together to expand cooperation for the transition to clean energy and create high-standard, clean energy supply chain jobs across our three nations through the mutually beneficial development of resources in clear, transparent, and fair market competition with strong protections for labor rights and the environment.” Marcos, Biden and Kishida also sought to expand the three nations’ partnership on safe and secure civil-nuclear capacity building, as they recognized the Philippines’ request for further training and capacity building for nuclear scientists, engineers, and relevant personnel and policymakers. Under the Foundational Infrastructure for Responsible Use of Small Modular Reactor Technology (FIRST) program, the US and Japan plan to co-host a nuclear energy study tour in Japan for nuclear experts and policy decision-makers from the Philippines and other FIRST partner countries. “We also plan to deepen trilateral cooperation on civilian nuclear workforce development through a trilateral dialogue this year, to advance the Philippines’ civil nuclear energy program,” the three leaders said. They welcomed the first Nuclear Energy Summit in Brussels on March 21. Over 35 countries, including Japan, the Philippines, and the United States, will participate in the event. They also expressed support for critical minerals industries as a way to promote resilient and reliable global supply chains for critical minerals. “We share the goal of producing and supplying battery materials and batteries for electric vehicles and energy storage systems for the global marketplace. The United States, under the International Visitor Leadership Program, plans to manage a clean energy supply chain training program for select participants from Japan and the Philippines,” they said. “In addition, the United States and Japan look forward to the Philippines being a founding member of the Minerals Security Partnership Forum, which signifies an important step towards securing and diversifying our collective clean energy supply chains.” Reduction of nuclear risks Meantime, Marcos, Biden and Kishida called for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, as they condemned the North Korea’s “escalatory threats and unprecedented number of ballistic missile launches, including multiple intercontinental ballistic missile launches, which pose a grave threat to peace and security.” They said North Korea’s actions have “severe security implications” for the Indo-Pacific and European regions. “We strongly urge the DPRK to comply with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, and refrain from continued development, testing, and transfer of ballistic missiles to any country, including Russia, which has used these missiles against Ukraine,” they said. “As we continue to affirm our commitment to international law, including the United Nations Charter, we reiterate our unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.” They said the threats of nuclear weapon use in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are “unacceptable,” adding that any use of a nuclear weapon “would be completely unjustifiable.” "To that end, we recall the United Nations General Assembly resolutions stating that no territorial acquisition resulting from the threat or use of force shall be recognized as legal,” they said. They also urged nuclear weapon states to promote stability and transparency, as well as engage in substantive dialogue on reducing nuclear risks. “We reaffirm our joint pursuit of a world without nuclear weapons, with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as its cornerstone,” the three leaders said. “As founding members of the ‘FMCT (Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty) Friends,’ we also call for the immediate commencement of long-overdue negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.”
March 11, 2024
As Chairperson of the Professional Regulatory Board of Geology, December of last year was quite a busy month. I was given the honor to present the keynote speech during the opening of the Geological Convention (GeoCon) 2023 last 05 December 2023 and the Oath Taking Ceremonies for New Geologists on 11 December 2023. In my speeches, I emphasized the important relationship between geology and national development as geoscientific data and knowledge are essential for informed decision-making and policy-setting in various areas of the economy. The profession is important in the primary production of mineral and energy resources, infrastructure building, advancement of science and technology, and prediction and cost-damage avoidance through better understanding and mitigation of natural hazards. During GeoCon 2023, I started my speech with a reflection on the recent onslaught of different calamities and super typhoons that ravaged our country in the last few years. These devastating disasters have had far-reaching impacts, hindering the development and growth of our nation. These highlighted the urgent need to address climate change, not just on a local scale, but as a global concern that affects every aspect of our society. While the Philippines is a minor contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, we are undeniably one of the most impacted nations, facing the imminent threat of rising sea levels due to increasing global temperature. Hence, we must recognize that climate change is not an isolated issue. It is an integral factor in our national policy. It is our collective responsibility to tackle this challenge head-on and without hesitation. To address these challenges, the geology profession must embark on a journey of energy transition, building the capacity for resilient communities and a resilient nation. It is imperative that we develop our green economy, as it holds the key to unlocking numerous job opportunities, livelihoods, and the sustainable future we envision for our people. However, this transition will require a collaborative effort between the government and the various industries that strive to achieve the same goal, and thus, we must work hand in hand to achieve this ambitious goal. Renewable energy technologies, such as wind turbines, solar photovoltaic panels and batteries, are essential for transition to climate neutrality. Deployment, maintenance and replacement of this infrastructure requires significant resources, including many substances in the list of critical raw materials. Addressing Wastes However, waste arising from end-of-life clean energy infrastructure is projected to grow up to 30-fold over the next 10 years. This presents significant opportunities to reduce consumption of scarce raw materials by recycling metals and other valuable resources back into the production systems. Waste arising from the development and use of renewable energy infrastructure includes rare earth elements as well as other valuable materials such as steel, copper and glass. The fast pace of technological development means that equipment can be subject to relatively rapid obsolescence and can generate complex waste streams. These present technical and logistical challenges for managing this infrastructure at the end-of-life stage. Recovering materials and reintroducing them into the production cycle faces challenges. Policy makers and industry can address the waste and resource challenges associated with the shift to renewable energy technologies through circular economy approaches. Critical Minerals The Philippines has grand ambitions to take on the global electric vehicle boom with its nine million hectares of land with high mineral potential. Government estimates suggest less than five percent (5%) of our country's mineral reserves have been extracted so far. The country is already, after Indonesia, the world's second-largest producer of nickel and the fourth-biggest producer of cobalt. Nickel and cobalt are among the critical minerals crucial to the modern technological world and the clean energy transition. Both are essential elements for electric vehicles batteries, consumer electronics and advanced defense technologies. However, the Philippines also faces competition from other nations in seeking new investments in critical mineral exploration, development, and processing. At the same time, mining regulatory policies are complicated as the industry has long been synonymous with environmental destruction and social dislocation. The End of Fossil Fuels? Developments in clean energy transition have led to an assumption that the world economy is “done” with fossil fuels. There is no need for further development of new non-renewable energy resources, and we have to stop using them as soon as possible. This assumption has also led to a perception of “good” renewables-based technologies, on the one hand, and “bad” fossil fuels-based technologies, on the other. The reality is that this debate requires a more thorough analysis. Carbon capture and storage technology and managing methane emissions throughout the fossil energy value chain can help meet ambitious CO2 emission reduction targets while fossil fuels remain part of the energy system. This will allow fossil fuels to become "part of the solution", rather than remain "part of the problem". All technologies have a role to play in an energy system as long as they are guided by rational economics. Addressing the issue of sustainable energy requires the engagement of all possible groups of stakeholders. Ignoring the role of fossil fuels will have a negative effect. Many developing countries, like the Philippines, have large untapped fossil fuel resources that they intend to use to develop their economies. Insisting that they forego the use of these resources in favor of renewables is likely to create repercussions in their economies. Let us be reminded that the developed countries built their existing economies on fossil fuels and are still heavily relying on them.  The Philippines, with untapped natural gas reserves in offshore Palawan, can use its resources to develop its economy. Rather than a “non-fossil fuel” agenda, a more pragmatic approach should be used to create a more-balanced strategy. Our government regulators should encourage the use of a broad range of resources available - energy efficiency, renewables, and fossil fuels in a sustainable manner. I see no need to join the bandwagon of banning the exploration, development, and utilization of our fossil-based resources. Energy security must be the primordial objective of the Philippine government. Let me say it again. The Philippines is a minor contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. The other stakeholder group that is often vilified in the energy transition agenda is the private sector in the fossil fuel industry. In fact, the private sector holds the expertise and often the financial resources to support the needed change to an inclusive green economy. For example, experience in petroleum drilling can be applied to the geothermal industry. Using the financial resources of the big companies along with their knowledge and experience, can facilitate the energy transition. Governments should instead encourage them to diversify to green energy and use environment, social, and government or ESG standards in sustainability reporting. Treating them like outcasts will make the energy transition harder and more expensive. The Role of Filipino Geologists Filipino geologists are in the forefront of fueling the energy transition journey. Geoscientists are employed in a wide variety of jobs, from traditional mining and petroleum to many new areas such as water quality and supply, land-use management and geologic hazards. In a global study, employment of geoscientists is expected to grow 5% in the next 10 years, which is faster than the average for other professions. Science, policy, public health, engineering, education, law, business— all of these fields overlap with the understanding of the earth that comes with a degree in geosciences. The continued need for energy, materials, including the critical minerals for energy transition is projected to increase demand for geoscientists in the future. Responsible stewardship of land and resources are also regularly being deployed in fields that focus on renewables such as hydrothermal power, geothermal, and sites for solar and wind. It’s also important to note that automation and artificial intelligence don’t necessarily mean there’s no future for geologists. What it means is that geologists, like many other professionals, need to learn new skill sets. Robots may be taking over areas such as field mapping and routine jobs like soil and rock sampling but ultimately humans make the final decisions about what to do with the data and information. It’s also human geologists who have to explain to higher management what all the data and information mean! Automation and AI is an opportunity to learn and apply new skills. Let us all embrace change and become digital-savvy geoscientists! In my speech during the oath taking of new geologists, I emphasized that the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) will spare no effort to provide the support necessary to address the pressing concerns that hinder the professional development of our geoscientists. And even as the PRC invests in infrastructure and institute reforms to improve the geology profession, it will continue to channel the hard-earned money of our taxpayers to empower our geologists—making them productive contributors to the continuing cycle of opportunity and progress. The PRC bear witness to the oaths of exemplary and honorable geologists who have been, and who will continue to be assets to our country. These individuals became leaders and trailblazers in our profession — exemplars of patriotism, of excellence, and wholehearted service throughout their careers and endeavors. For geologists who will join government, public service is no easy task. Serving in an office with such a significant and influential role in the nation’s affairs will be difficult. Life in government will always be hard and challenging, but every service delivered brings purpose, it brings fulfillment. They will be assured of PRC’s unshakable commitment to their protection and welfare, to ensure that they are provided with the necessary tools to perform their tasks and duties in the fulfillment of their service to the nation and the people. The persistent critical challenge presented is to ensure an improved quality of life and economic growth, while reducing the environmental footprint of the resources sector. The transition to a sustainable energy system is an opportunity to improve energy efficiency from exploration to consumption, minimize environmental impacts, reduce energy use and carbon footprints, and correct energy market failures and leakages. Taking advantage of the opportunity will require a coordinated policy review and reforms across many sectors, most especially from the ranks of Filipino geologists. The idea of green mining and the presence of stringent environmental compliance measures may not be enough to make mining widely acceptable to the public. It is their responsibility then to explain the importance of resource development to the general public. I ended my speech by thanking our Filipino geologists, for their dedication, expertise, and unwavering commitment to our beloved nation. The Filipino geologists can make a real difference in climate change mitigation, digital transformation, and clean energy transition, and most especially in the pursuit of a sustainable and prosperous future for the Philippines.   Fernando “Ronnie” S. Penarroyo specializes in Energy and Resources Law, Project Finance and Business Development. He is also currently the Chair of the Professional Regulatory Board of Geology; the government agency mandated under law to regulate and develop the geology profession. He may be contacted at fspenarroyo@penpalaw.com for any matters or inquiries in relation to the Philippine resources industry and suggested topics for commentaries. Atty. Penarroyo’s commentaries are also archived at his professional blogsite at www.penarroyo.com
March 11, 2024
As Chairperson of the Professional Regulatory Board of Geology, December of last year was quite a busy month. I was given the honor to present the keynote speech during the opening of the Geological Convention (GeoCon) 2023 last 05 December 2023 and the Oath Taking Ceremonies for New Geologists on 11 December 2023. In my speeches, I emphasized the important relationship between geology and national development as geoscientific data and knowledge are essential for informed decision-making and policy-setting in various areas of the economy. The profession is important in the primary production of mineral and energy resources, infrastructure building, advancement of science and technology, and prediction and cost-damage avoidance through better understanding and mitigation of natural hazards. During GeoCon 2023, I started my speech with a reflection on the recent onslaught of different calamities and super typhoons that ravaged our country in the last few years. These devastating disasters have had far-reaching impacts, hindering the development and growth of our nation. These highlighted the urgent need to address climate change, not just on a local scale, but as a global concern that affects every aspect of our society. While the Philippines is a minor contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, we are undeniably one of the most impacted nations, facing the imminent threat of rising sea levels due to increasing global temperature. Hence, we must recognize that climate change is not an isolated issue. It is an integral factor in our national policy. It is our collective responsibility to tackle this challenge head-on and without hesitation. To address these challenges, the geology profession must embark on a journey of energy transition, building the capacity for resilient communities and a resilient nation. It is imperative that we develop our green economy, as it holds the key to unlocking numerous job opportunities, livelihoods, and the sustainable future we envision for our people. However, this transition will require a collaborative effort between the government and the various industries that strive to achieve the same goal, and thus, we must work hand in hand to achieve this ambitious goal. Renewable energy technologies, such as wind turbines, solar photovoltaic panels and batteries, are essential for transition to climate neutrality. Deployment, maintenance and replacement of this infrastructure requires significant resources, including many substances in the list of critical raw materials. Addressing Wastes However, waste arising from end-of-life clean energy infrastructure is projected to grow up to 30-fold over the next 10 years. This presents significant opportunities to reduce consumption of scarce raw materials by recycling metals and other valuable resources back into the production systems. Waste arising from the development and use of renewable energy infrastructure includes rare earth elements as well as other valuable materials such as steel, copper and glass. The fast pace of technological development means that equipment can be subject to relatively rapid obsolescence and can generate complex waste streams. These present technical and logistical challenges for managing this infrastructure at the end-of-life stage. Recovering materials and reintroducing them into the production cycle faces challenges. Policy makers and industry can address the waste and resource challenges associated with the shift to renewable energy technologies through circular economy approaches. Critical Minerals The Philippines has grand ambitions to take on the global electric vehicle boom with its nine million hectares of land with high mineral potential. Government estimates suggest less than five percent (5%) of our country's mineral reserves have been extracted so far. The country is already, after Indonesia, the world's second-largest producer of nickel and the fourth-biggest producer of cobalt. Nickel and cobalt are among the critical minerals crucial to the modern technological world and the clean energy transition. Both are essential elements for electric vehicles batteries, consumer electronics and advanced defense technologies. However, the Philippines also faces competition from other nations in seeking new investments in critical mineral exploration, development, and processing. At the same time, mining regulatory policies are complicated as the industry has long been synonymous with environmental destruction and social dislocation. The End of Fossil Fuels? Developments in clean energy transition have led to an assumption that the world economy is “done” with fossil fuels. There is no need for further development of new non-renewable energy resources, and we have to stop using them as soon as possible. This assumption has also led to a perception of “good” renewables-based technologies, on the one hand, and “bad” fossil fuels-based technologies, on the other. The reality is that this debate requires a more thorough analysis. Carbon capture and storage technology and managing methane emissions throughout the fossil energy value chain can help meet ambitious CO2 emission reduction targets while fossil fuels remain part of the energy system. This will allow fossil fuels to become "part of the solution", rather than remain "part of the problem". All technologies have a role to play in an energy system as long as they are guided by rational economics. Addressing the issue of sustainable energy requires the engagement of all possible groups of stakeholders. Ignoring the role of fossil fuels will have a negative effect. Many developing countries, like the Philippines, have large untapped fossil fuel resources that they intend to use to develop their economies. Insisting that they forego the use of these resources in favor of renewables is likely to create repercussions in their economies. Let us be reminded that the developed countries built their existing economies on fossil fuels and are still heavily relying on them.  The Philippines, with untapped natural gas reserves in offshore Palawan, can use its resources to develop its economy. Rather than a “non-fossil fuel” agenda, a more pragmatic approach should be used to create a more-balanced strategy. Our government regulators should encourage the use of a broad range of resources available - energy efficiency, renewables, and fossil fuels in a sustainable manner. I see no need to join the bandwagon of banning the exploration, development, and utilization of our fossil-based resources. Energy security must be the primordial objective of the Philippine government. Let me say it again. The Philippines is a minor contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. The other stakeholder group that is often vilified in the energy transition agenda is the private sector in the fossil fuel industry. In fact, the private sector holds the expertise and often the financial resources to support the needed change to an inclusive green economy. For example, experience in petroleum drilling can be applied to the geothermal industry. Using the financial resources of the big companies along with their knowledge and experience, can facilitate the energy transition. Governments should instead encourage them to diversify to green energy and use environment, social, and government or ESG standards in sustainability reporting. Treating them like outcasts will make the energy transition harder and more expensive. The Role of Filipino Geologists Filipino geologists are in the forefront of fueling the energy transition journey. Geoscientists are employed in a wide variety of jobs, from traditional mining and petroleum to many new areas such as water quality and supply, land-use management and geologic hazards. In a global study, employment of geoscientists is expected to grow 5% in the next 10 years, which is faster than the average for other professions. Science, policy, public health, engineering, education, law, business— all of these fields overlap with the understanding of the earth that comes with a degree in geosciences. The continued need for energy, materials, including the critical minerals for energy transition is projected to increase demand for geoscientists in the future. Responsible stewardship of land and resources are also regularly being deployed in fields that focus on renewables such as hydrothermal power, geothermal, and sites for solar and wind. It’s also important to note that automation and artificial intelligence don’t necessarily mean there’s no future for geologists. What it means is that geologists, like many other professionals, need to learn new skill sets. Robots may be taking over areas such as field mapping and routine jobs like soil and rock sampling but ultimately humans make the final decisions about what to do with the data and information. It’s also human geologists who have to explain to higher management what all the data and information mean! Automation and AI is an opportunity to learn and apply new skills. Let us all embrace change and become digital-savvy geoscientists! In my speech during the oath taking of new geologists, I emphasized that the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) will spare no effort to provide the support necessary to address the pressing concerns that hinder the professional development of our geoscientists. And even as the PRC invests in infrastructure and institute reforms to improve the geology profession, it will continue to channel the hard-earned money of our taxpayers to empower our geologists—making them productive contributors to the continuing cycle of opportunity and progress. The PRC bear witness to the oaths of exemplary and honorable geologists who have been, and who will continue to be assets to our country. These individuals became leaders and trailblazers in our profession — exemplars of patriotism, of excellence, and wholehearted service throughout their careers and endeavors. For geologists who will join government, public service is no easy task. Serving in an office with such a significant and influential role in the nation’s affairs will be difficult. Life in government will always be hard and challenging, but every service delivered brings purpose, it brings fulfillment. They will be assured of PRC’s unshakable commitment to their protection and welfare, to ensure that they are provided with the necessary tools to perform their tasks and duties in the fulfillment of their service to the nation and the people. The persistent critical challenge presented is to ensure an improved quality of life and economic growth, while reducing the environmental footprint of the resources sector. The transition to a sustainable energy system is an opportunity to improve energy efficiency from exploration to consumption, minimize environmental impacts, reduce energy use and carbon footprints, and correct energy market failures and leakages. Taking advantage of the opportunity will require a coordinated policy review and reforms across many sectors, most especially from the ranks of Filipino geologists. The idea of green mining and the presence of stringent environmental compliance measures may not be enough to make mining widely acceptable to the public. It is their responsibility then to explain the importance of resource development to the general public. I ended my speech by thanking our Filipino geologists, for their dedication, expertise, and unwavering commitment to our beloved nation. The Filipino geologists can make a real difference in climate change mitigation, digital transformation, and clean energy transition, and most especially in the pursuit of a sustainable and prosperous future for the Philippines.   Fernando “Ronnie” S. Penarroyo specializes in Energy and Resources Law, Project Finance and Business Development. He is also currently the Chair of the Professional Regulatory Board of Geology; the government agency mandated under law to regulate and develop the geology profession. He may be contacted at fspenarroyo@penpalaw.com for any matters or inquiries in relation to the Philippine resources industry and suggested topics for commentaries. Atty. Penarroyo’s commentaries are also archived at his professional blogsite at www.penarroyo.com
May 13, 2024
For well developed countries, education is a given right, as basic as breathing. But in developing countries like the Philippines, most households have to contend with meeting basic needs such as food, energy costs, and housing, making education less of a priority. The education sector is fraught with various problems ranging from poverty and lack of resources to infrastructure and the digital divide. It is no surprise then that only 13 percent of Filipinos have obtained a college degree based on the latest Census of Population and Housing. Across the different levels of educational attainment, reasons vary for not attending school. Most of us have watched Filipino teleseryes where the lead character must stop going to school and go to work to help the family. Sadly, these dramas reflect reality. The Philippine Statistics Authority relates that the primary reasons for non-attendance to schools are employment (19.7 percent), lack of personal interest (12.6 percent), marriage (10.7 percent), and financial constraints or high education costs (9.9 percent). In Cagayan Valley, out of 330,000 individuals ages 20 to 24 years old, only 28 percent of Cagayanos have graduated from college.2 “With rising costs of living, even if there are state universities, it is still difficult to continue studying because we need to pay rent and to buy books and other materials,” Althea Mae Valdez, a student from Nueva Vizcaya State University, said. Recognizing the challenges that the youth in Cagayan Valley face, the Didipio Mine of OceanaGold (Philippines), Inc. has been providing scholarship grants to deserving students in the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya and Qurino since 2007. The Didipio Mine has produced 270 scholar graduates to date. Scholarship for Indigenous Peoples With Region 2 home to several indigenous peoples (IPs) such as the Agtas, Ibalois, Bugkalots, Dumagat, among other tribes, the Didipio Mine, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), and the Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representatives (IPMR) of the provinces of Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya forged a memorandum of agreement last year, offering scholarships to students belonging to the indigenous cultural communities (ICCs) and IP groups. Funded through the Community Development Fund (CDF), 75 IP students have been receiving P40,000 in yearly stipend to support them in completing their tertiary education. The CDF is an addendum to the Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) of the Didipio Mine. “It was a ray of hope for me when I became a CDF IP scholar because I then knew I will be able to achieve my dream of becoming a teacher,” Valdez, who also belongs to the Ayangan tribe, said. “Now I can pay off my bills in school and buy the things I need. I hope that the scholarship will continue until I graduate,” she added. The stipend from the CDF IP Scholarship served as Education major Christy Chulipa’s allowance, while also allowing her to pay her school fees at NVSU Bayombong. “I am thankful to the Didipio Mine as I do not ask for an allowance from my parents anymore,” Chulipa, a member of the Ayangan and Tuwali tribes, said. Recently, at the request of the Philippine Councilors Leagues of Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino, and in collaboration with the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, NCIP, the Commission on Human Rights, State Universities and Colleges, and other concerned government agencies, the Didipio Mine has opened additional 75 slots in educational assistance also funded by the CDF for students residing outside its 11 host and neighboring communities. They will also be receiving P40,000 annually. The Didipio Mine currently provides educational assistance and scholarships to 509 tertiary students and with 75 more this 2024 through the CDF scholarship. Developing future industry professionals For Mark Angelo Bumughawi, a 4th year Mining Engineering student, the Mine’s Development of Mining Technology and Geosciences (DMTG) scholarship was ‘gold’ to his family. His family faced a financial crisis when he pursued college alongside his sister, and to support his studies, he paused his studies and worked in small-scale mines. “Things shifted when the Didipio Mine welcomed me as a DMTG scholar, providing invaluable support akin to 'gold' for my family and me. Transitioning from financial worries to academic focus, I seized the different opportunities bestowed by the scholarship,” Bumughawi said. “As a DMTG scholar, I've experienced the beauty of the Didipio Mine firsthand through its immersive OJT experiences. I am deeply grateful to the Didipio Mine for the invaluable opportunity through their scholarship program,” he added. Investing in the future For its 11 host and neighboring communities, the Didipio Mine has scholarship programs under its Social Development and Management Program and Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives which includes the Neighboring Community Scholarship Program. “I managed to finish my degree through OGPI’s neighboring scholarship program, and eventually obtained my Certified Public Accountant license. It is truly a life-changing gift,” Recel Benhel, a graduate of Saint Mary’s University-Bayombong, said. “They have invested in my future, in the future of the youth and they are fostering the growth of scholars from the neighboring barangays,” said Johara Binlayan of Brgy. Dibibi, Cabarroguis, also a scholar of OceanaGold and now a civil engineer. “A better future for the youth – that is among our commitments to the communities we serve. We believe that by providing better opportunities accessible to the underprivileged but deserving students, we can inspire and make them realize their potential and contribute to nation-building - from the mine to the mind,” Atty. Joan Adaci-Cattiling, OGPI President and General Manager for External Affairs and Social Performance, said.
March 12, 2024
[Quezon City] Dec. 5-6, 2023 - During the GEOCON 2023 of The Geological Society of the Philippines (GSP), various scientific presentations discussed energy transition, innovative studies and technology applications on Earth Science, and more. The theme of the two-day conference is “Our Natural Resources: Fueling the Energy Transition Journey”. GSP President, Mr. Joey Nelson R. Ayson said that this aptly captures how we recover from the effects of Covid-19 pandemic and at the same time put Environmental, Social, Governance (“ESG”) at the forefront of their activities. He stated, “It also highlights the significant contribution of geologists and geosciences in general to our socio-economic development, environmental sustainability, and climate change adaptation activities.”
March 12, 2024
[Quezon City] Dec. 5-6, 2023 - During the GEOCON 2023 of The Geological Society of the Philippines (GSP), various scientific presentations discussed energy transition, innovative studies and technology applications on Earth Science, and more. The theme of the two-day conference is “Our Natural Resources: Fueling the Energy Transition Journey”. GSP President, Mr. Joey Nelson R. Ayson said that this aptly captures how we recover from the effects of Covid-19 pandemic and at the same time put Environmental, Social, Governance (“ESG”) at the forefront of their activities. He stated, “It also highlights the significant contribution of geologists and geosciences in general to our socio-economic development, environmental sustainability, and climate change adaptation activities.”

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