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Zooming (and more) in the Pandemic

by Philippine Resources - December 01, 2020

By: Patricia A. O. Bunye

I have always wondered how the founder of Zoom, Eric Yuan, feels about making over USD12 billion since March 2020, when the pandemic began and practically everyone on the planet has been ‘Zoom-ing’ for work or play. With its simple features, Zoom has left competitors like Skype in the dust.

Yuan is now ranked No. 85 on Bloomberg's list of the 500 richest people in the world. Before 2020, he wasn't even on the list. He is also number 43 in the Forbes 400, the magazine's annual ranking of the 400 wealthiest people in America, for the first time in 2020. He also made it to Time’s 100 Most Influential this year.

It is not a fortune built overnight or by taking advantage of Covid 19, as some may wrongly assume. Yuan says he got the idea for Zoom while trying to find a way to connect with his long-distance girlfriend (now his wife) as a student. He was one of the original hires of WebEx, a videoconferencing startup, when he first moved to the US. When WebEx was acquired by Cisco Systems, Yuan pitched a new smartphone-friendly video conferencing system to Cisco management, but it was rejected. Cisco apparently preferred to concentrate on enterprise systems which was not the direction Yuan wanted to take, so Yuan left to establish his own company, Zoom Video Communications.

It is not widely known that Yuan has a connection to the mining industry: his parents are mining engineers and Yuan himself has a master’s degree in geology engineering from the China University of Mining and Technology in Beijing.

Thanks to Zoom, there a semblance of normalcy in our lives as it enables us to hold meetings, teleconferences, classes, negotiations, and lectures. I have attended masses, Holy Week services, a wedding, a wake, and reunions. This Christmas, I will likely see friends and family online there as well. Not a day has passed since the declaration of the lockdown in March that I have not connected with others via Zoom.

The silver lining of the pandemic, if you could call it that, is that it has opened many opportunities for online learning. Students are not the only ones who have classes to attend online. There is a wide array of webinars pertaining to my areas of practice available at the click of a mouse, as well as many other topics such as politics (starting with the US elections), economics and finance, as well as a number of my (nerdy) pursuits. In fact, it has developed in me FOMO: a fear of missing out on the sheer variety of offerings.

The Financial Times, for example, ran “The Commodities Mining Summit” online in October with the theme “A New Narrative for Mining”. With the 17 sessions featuring the CEOs of BHP, Anglo American, Glencore and Vale, among others, still available on demand, it is an unparalleled resource.

In his opening keynote, BHP’s CEO Mike Henry underscored that mining remains an essential industry, something that we know too well, but the larger population still fails to appreciate. He says that Covid 19 has given the industry an opportunity to demonstrate its capabilities: how quickly it can mobilize, particularly in safeguarding the health of the companies’ workforces, to support the communities and business partners. According to him, the value created is not just for direct stakeholders, but the resources produced, the ability to generate employment, taxes, royalties, and dividends in a time of crisis is a “positive differentiator” relative to other industries, which produces economic development and an improvement in living standards throughout the world. He further stressed that there is little choice as to whether mining happens or not, but the choice is as to how it happens and who does it.

In this regard, Mike Henry highlighted the role that commodities play in “rebuilding a better world”, particularly in addressing climate change and de-carbonization. He also emphasized the “build back better” (BBB) approach in relation to recovering after Covid 19, i.e., continuing to ensure sustainability as the mining industry bounces back.

That commodities are essential was seconded by Glencore’s Ivan Glasenberg in a succeeding panel. He said that “new generation companies” like Tesla all depend on mining for the commodities that they require for batteries, solar panels, windmills and like. Unfortunately, he said, mining companies “get it wrong” by building new mines and underestimating the cost.

Mark Cutifani of Anglo American, for his part, said that it is time for mining companies to stop thinking in terms of B2B (business to business) and start thinking in terms of B2C (business to consumer) so that the dialogue around mining shifts, i.e., when people talk about the provenance of products, they will become more comfortable with the idea that when they drive a car, build a house, use electrical power, or even drink water, the mining industry is involved in everything.

Apart from this outstanding series of the FT, I have enjoyed the Wall Street Journal’s Women in the Workplace Forum where Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg was one of the many speakers. It was also an occasion to launch “Women in the Workplace 2020” LeanIn.org’s comprehensive study on women in corporate America in collaboration with McKinsey & Co. What struck me in the study was that, notwithstanding the many gains made by women, Covid 19 has presented more challenges or demands on them in terms of additional child care or home schooling responsibilties, the health/illnesses of family members, mental issues/burnout, and other unique issues brought by the pandemic.

One of the best online engagements I’ve had so far was a networking evening where the participants received cocktail making kits at home prior to the event and a bartender demonstrated how to mix drinks via Zoom.

Next May, a conference that I attend annually may possibly be held 24/7 by Zoom to enable its members worldwide to participate from different timezones in 6 hour shifts. A radical idea, but with the world turned upside down by Covid 19, anything is possible these days.

Patricia A. O. Bunye is a Senior Partner at Cruz Marcelo & Tenefrancia where she heads its Mining & Natural Resources Department and Energy practice group. She is also the Founding President of Diwata-Women in Resource Development, Inc., a non-government organization advocating the responsible development of the Philippines’ wealth in resources, principally, through industries such as mining, oil and gas, quarrying, and other mineral resources from the earth for processing.



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Commentary

Philippine Resources - May 29, 2019

ECCP Launched the 1st Philippine Natural Resources Development Forum

By Marcelle P. Villegas26 April 2019 - The European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) organized and launched the 1st Philippine Natural Resources Development Forum at the Marriott Hotel Manila. The forum’s theme was “Harnessing Natural Resources for Inclusiveness and Sustainable Development”.ECCP describes the current status of the Philippine mining industry:“The mining industry in the Philippines is a major economic activity but remains operating below potential. There is a considerable anti-mining sentiment in the country especially at the subnational levels where environmental impact and displacement of indigenous peoples caused by mining operations have been the focus of much debate. Small-scale mining is also contentious, due to poor regulations and overlapping policies between national and local government. The ECCP believes that the contribution to national development can be further enhanced through better regulatory and enabling policies, best practices in value sharing, environment-friendly technologies and socially responsible investments.” [1]According to ECCP, the objective of the 1st Philippine Natural Resources Development Forum intends to convene decision makers and other key stakeholders from the Mining (Metallic and Non-metallic subsectors) as well as Upstream Oil & Gas, Coal subsectors, to discuss challenges, opportunities, policy reforms and best practices in harnessing the country’s natural resources and their contribution to sustainable development. [1]Present during the event were key players in the mineral resources industry from the public and private sectors. There were also participants and attendees from civil society organisations and academic groups. The forum discussed the latest issues and challenges being faced by the mining industry in the Philippines. The forum and its speakers thoroughly enumerated the many ways that the industry has contributed to the Philippine economic and social development. The forum also covered discussions on good governance, environmental management within a mining operation, global standards and sustainable mining practices.The forum had four sessions namely: Contribution to National, Local and Community Development, Global Standards in Enhancing Inclusion along the Value Chain, Good Practices in Responsible Natural Resource Management and Inclusive Value Chain, and Unlocking Future Growth Opportunities.The Welcome Address was given by Mr Nabil Francis, President of ECCP who emphasised the great potential and role of mining as an economic development catalyst in the country, for which proper information sharing, such as this forum, is key in solving the industry’s current problems. “While there is much to do in terms of regulation and improving doing business in this sector, it is very encouraging to see you all here today willing to listen, willing to learn, willing to contribute to this common goal,” he stated.During the first session, Acting Director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), Atty. Wilfredo Moncano, was a speaker and he discussed the current status of the mineral industry in the Philippines, including the approved mining tenements, the sector’s economic contribution, and current and proposed fiscal regime. [2]On his keynote speech, Secretary Roy A. Cimatu of the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR), mentioned five aspects of proper management of our mineral resources: (a) social; (b) environmental; (c) technological; (d) industrialization; and (e) exploration aspect.The Secretary noted the importance of “social acceptability” in the industry, and treating host communities more than just as a legal or regulatory sense. In the environmental aspect of operations, he emphasised the need to pay more attention to waste production since mineral extraction is the largest global waste producer. The secretary expressed his discontent on the weak enforcement of environmental laws and mitigating measures, and implored the mining sector to cooperate and “strictly comply with environmental laws and standards.”[2]For this, the Secretary recommended the upgrade of monitoring system, standards, and practices in order to have better control on environmental issues. Secretary Cimatu stated that we should ensure availability of mineral resources for the future generation, thus we have to pursue sustainable exploration and extraction methods including but not limited to shifting to renewable energy. Representatives of Quisumbing Torres, Atty. Gaston Perez de Tagle and Atty. Dennis Quintero were the moderators of the Open Forum. In one interaction with speakers from the public sector, one of the delegates was the international award-winning architect and urban planner, Arch. Felino “Jun” A. Palafox, Jr. He pointed out (through his question) that given that the Philippines is very much rich in natural resources, that the taxes generated from the operations is clearly a solution in alleviating poverty in Philippines.During the four sessions of the forum, the other speakers were Usec. Bayani Agabin (Undersecretary for Legal Services, Department of Finance), Mr Jerome G. Cipriano (SGS Phils., Inc.), Mr Isidro C. Alcantara, Jr. (Chairman, Philippine Nickel Industry Association), Mr John Reinier Dizon (VP - Strategy and Business Development, Republic Cement Services, Inc.), Mr. Angelo Kris Marcos (Senior Contracting and Procurement Manager, Shell Philippines Exploration B.V.), Mr Michael Spence (Managing Partner of Southeast Asia Partners in Performance), Usec. Analiza Rebuelta-Teh (DENR), Mr Gerard Brimo (Chairman, Chamber of Mines of the Philippines), Mr Renato C. Sunico (Chair and President, Cement Manufacturers’ Asso. of the Phils.), Engr. Rufino Bomasang (Chairman, Petroleum Asso. of the Phils.), and more. Some facts about the Philippine Mining Industry from ECCP:~ 30 million hectares of land in the Philippines are possible areas for metallic minerals~ 9 million hectares of land are identified as having high mineral potentialThe Philippines is endowed with bountiful metallic and non-metallic mineral resources. It is the 5th most mineral-rich country in the world for gold, nickel, copper and chromite. The Philippines has the world’s largest copper-gold deposit in the world. It also exports some iron ore, chromium, zinc and silver, and produces oil and gas.The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) estimates that the country has $840 billion worth of untapped mineral wealth.Approximately 30 million hectares of land in the Philippines are possible areas for metallic minerals; nine million hectares of land are identified as having high mineral potential. The Philippines metal deposits is estimated at 21.5 billion metric tons and non-metallic minerals are at 19.3 billion metric tons.- - -Reference:[1] Retrieved from https://www.eccp.com/events/?id=499[2] Retrieved from http://mgb.gov.ph/en/2015-05-13-02-02-11/mgb-news/860-eccp-conducts-the-1st-philippine-natural-resources-development-forum

Commentary

Philippine Resources - June 08, 2020

German Geologist Conducts Lecture About Taal Volcano

Dr. Friedrich-Karl Bandelow received a Plaque of Appreciation from Divine World College of Calapan -- (Left to right) Dr. Aleli C. Dugan, CPA (Vice President for Academic Affairs), Ms Diana Kyth Conti (Teacher at Divine Word College of Calapan), and Engr. Rosvelinda Luzon Dequiros, LPT, Ph.D. (Dean, School of Education) (Photo credit: Dr. Friedrich-Karl Bandelow)By Marcelle P. VillegasThe start of 2020 felt like doomsday when Taal Volcano suddenly erupted. It is the second most active volcano in the Philippines. When it erupted in January, it frightened many people when the sunny afternoon suddenly turned dark and terrifying with volcanic lightning visible through the dark volcanic ash. This resulted in the immediate mass evacuation of almost 1 million people. When it comes to natural calamities, it is often unpredictable, but nature has a way of giving us clues of future disasters. From the point of view of geologists, volcanic eruptions are just part of the natural movements of the Earth’s crust. Looking back on that day, it was Sunday afternoon on the 12th of January when Dr Friedrich-Karl Bandelow, a retired geologist, noticed from his window that the Taal Volcano looks unusual. Although the sky was blue and the weather was sunny, there was something strange about a giant cloud that formed a ring above the volcano.[12 January 2020] “Taal Volcano woke me up. This is a view from my window in Calapan City.” (Photo by Dr Friedrich-Karl Bandelow)In the late afternoon, the skies turned dark and Taal Volcano spewed ashes across Calabarzon, Metro Manila and some parts of Central Luzon and Ilocos Region. [1]. It was a phreato-magmatic eruption, an eruption resulting from the interaction between magma and water."The upper ring [of clouds] appears to be caused by a phreatic eruption that developed into a phreato-magmatic eruption.”Although volcanic eruptions are disastrous and dangerous, it is no doubt that the volcanic lighting that evening was both frightening and fascinating as it gave a rare and beautiful light show in the night skies. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) issued Alert Level 4 which implies that hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days. By 26 January 2020, PHIVOLCS observed an inconsistent but decreasing volcanic activity in Taal, thus they downgraded their warning to Alert Level 3. On 14 February 2020, Alert Level was finally on Level 2 due to consistent decreased volcanic activity. [1]Educational Event in Calapan Divine Word College of Calapan (DWCC) in Oriental Mindoro requested Dr. Friedrich-Karl Bandelow to give a lecture about Taal Volcano. He received this invitation from Engr. Rosvelinda Luzon Dequiros, LPT, Ph.D. (Dean, School of Education), Fr. Crispin A. Cordero, SVD (President, Divine Word College of Calapan), and Dr. Aleli C. Dugan, CPA (Vice President for Academic Affairs). On 11 March 2020, he then gave a presentation at DWCC with the title "Volcanoes in General and Taal Volcano in Particular". It was a 90-minute lecture with a 30-minute Question and Answer portion. Dr. Bandelow said, “About 80 students from various courses attended the lecture. From each interested course, about 8 to 10 students were assigned and they later disseminated the information to their classmates.” “It was enjoyable to teach and interact with young students. I also felt that I am part of my community in Calapan City,” Dr. Bandelow stated. The purpose of the lecture was to give information about the recent Taal eruption and the history of that volcano. He covered the following topics: Basics About Volcanoes, Volcanoes in the Philippines, Are there Volcanoes in Mindoro?, Taal Volcano: Physiographic Elements, Which is bigger: Taal or Mayon?, Taal Volcano Eruption History, The January 2020 Eruption, Effects of Eruption, and Monitoring and Prediction. “The question if there are volcanoes in Mindoro was of big interest. Some students were living near volcanoes in Naujan and Pola without knowing it. Of course, the question on Taal eruption’s impact on Calapan was also interesting,” he said.Getting To Know The VolcanoHere are some key points from his lecture about Taal Volcano:● Taal is 311 m high. It had a total of 42 eruptions since 1572● Taal Volcano Island lies within the Taal Lake. Taal Lake lies within a 25-30 km Taal Caldera formed by explosive eruptions between 140,000 and 5,380 BP (Before Present). Each of these eruptions created extensive ash and ignimbrite deposits, reaching as far away as where Manila stands today.● Since the formation of the caldera, subsequent eruptions have created a volcanic island within the caldera, known as Volcano Island. ● The center of the island, occupied by the 2-kilometers Main Crater with a single crater lake, was formed from the 1911 eruption. The island consists of different overlapping cones and craters which 47 have been identified. [2]Dr. Bandelow also discussed the importance of the 1911 Taal Volcano eruption. In 1911, the volcano had violent eruptions. The crater floor was completely changed and the interior was created. There was complete destruction of Taal Island with a death toll of 1100 lives and hundreds of animals died as well. Ash was falling within a radius of about 300 km, 70 to 80 million m3 of ash. [2]About the January 2020 eruption, he mentioned that the event started with a phreatic eruption. Phreatic eruptions are steam-driven explosions that occur when water beneath the ground or on the surface is heated by magma, lava, hot rocks, or new volcanic deposits. The intense heat of such materials (as high as 1,170° C for basaltic lava) may cause water to boil and flash to steam, thereby generating an explosion of steam, water, ash, blocks and bombs. [2]Effects of the January 2020 eruption:● More than 1 million people were evacuated.● The volcano island is off-limits. About 8000 people lost their homes and cannot return. ● The area around Agoncillo and San Nicolas is badly damaged by fractures.● Fish raising facilities in the Taal Lake were damaged.● Water level of Taal Lake went down. Pansipit River dried up. ● Crater lake was falling dry and is recovering.How does PHIVOLCS monitor the Taal Volcano? Here are some important eruption precursors:● Increase in frequency of volcanic quakes and rumbling sounds● Changes in the water temperature, level and bubbling or boiling activity on the lake● Development of new or reactivation of old thermal areas like fumaroles, geysers or mud pots● Ground inflation or ground fissuring - Often surveyed by means of satellite images (interferometry)● Increase in temperature of ground probe holes on monitoring stations● Strong sulfuric odor or irritating fumes similar to rotten eggs● Fish killed and drying up of vegetationCan PHIVOLCS predict the next eruption? PHIVOLCS will determine the alert level (0 to 5) based on the permanent survey of data. [2] Here is a guide:● Level 3 indicates that an eruption could occur within the next days or weeks (or not!).● Level 4 indicates that an eruption is an imminent risk and could occur now.● Level 5 is on during a volcanic eruption with ash falls, lava flows, pyroclastic flows.Conclusion: Volcanologists are in the position to describe the actual situation and the possible risks but they cannot schedule the events.At the end of the lecture, Dr. Bandelow received a Plaque of Appreciation by the Divine Word College of Calapan.About the LecturerDr. Friedrich-Karl Bandelow is a retired geologist living in Calapan City. He studied geology at Johannes-Gutenberg University in Mainz/Germany and graduated as Master of Science in 1980. In 1981, he joined Montan Consulting GmbH, an international mining consulting company. He was assigned to exploration projects in Germany and Botswana. He arrived in the Philippines in 1983. From 1983 to 1987, he was seconded to a technical aide project as a consultant to the BED, now the Philippine Department of Energy. He later returned to Germany where he focused on his doctorate thesis while working on international projects.In 1997, Dr. Bandelow received his Ph.D. in Natural Science (Dr. rer. nat.) from Johannes-Gutenberg University in Mainz. From 2011 to 2013, he settled in Jakarta, Indonesia after being assigned as President Director of PT DMT Indonesia. After a year, he returned to the Philippines and based at his home office in Calapan City. He retired from permanent employment in 2016 and is still occasionally working as an independent consultant in the region.Dr. Bandelow is a member of the United Nations - Task Force for Resource and Reserve Classification. He is a registered European Geologist with the European Federation of Geologists. Dr. Bandelow has written 23 publications in international journals with focus on resource classification and coal geology.-----Acknowledgement: Thank you, Dr. Friedrich-Karl Bandlow, Engr. Rosvelinda Luzon Dequiros, Fr. Crispin A. Cordero and Dr. Aleli C. Dugan, CPA of Divine Word College of Calapan..-----References:[1] Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_Taal_Volcano_eruption[2] Bandelow, Friedrich-Karl (11 March 2020). "Volcanoes in General and Taal Volcano in Particular". Lecture at Divine Word College of Calapan, Oriental Mindoro.

Commentary

Philippine Resources - June 08, 2020

Geoscience in a Post-COVID-19 World

Dr. Jun Abrajano (Photo credit: GSP and KAUST - Office of Sponsored Research)By Marcelle P. VillegasLast 26 May 2020, the Geological Society of the Philippines (GSP) conducted a webinar with guest speaker Dr. Jun Abrajano on "Geoscience in a Post-COVID-19 World: A Perspective". Dr Abrajano is the Director of the Office of Sponsored Research (OSR) in King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia. These are the highlights of the webinar:“Geoscience in a Post-COVID-19 world: A Perspective.” [1](1) The concept of foresight and active resiliency was presented as important in this time of COVID-19 pandemic. This concept looks into understanding the drivers of risk from which strategies and outcomes may be formulated to benefit the communities and from which challenges and opportunities may also be identified.(2) Potential features of a post-COVID-19 world include statistical results showing the negative impacts of the pandemic and COVID-19 global outlook that features the presence of risks arising from prolonged recession, geopolitics, and accelerated technology adoption among others. In a post-COVID-19 world, every business is a health business. More so, it necessitates reinvention of authority among others.(3) The pre-COVID-19 situation of the geosciences plays around the following major considerations: (a) understanding the complex Earth systems; (b) reducing vulnerability and sustaining life; (c) sustainable resource utilization and; (d) growing the geoscience workforce. With the pandemic, granular trends in addressing issues that impact the human life (e.g. geohazards, health-related) can either be accelerated or decelerated.(4) With the pandemic, emerging trends in the activities and opportunities for the geosciences arise. These include (a) identifying the “geo-impact” to human health; (b) having an interface between geology and biology/microbiology and (c) dwelling on real-time observations and big data analytics among others. The resource sector has also been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, both positively and negatively. The precious metals and base metals have so far performed well, in contrast to the crude and natural gas sectors which have suffered a downward market trend during this time of pandemic.(5) With the pandemic, foresight would be a prolonged recession or another pandemic occurring. This, however, should be taken also as an opportunity for geosciences, bearing in mind the considerations during the pre-COVID-19 situation as outlined above.GSP provided certificates of attendance to webinar participants.The video recording of the webinar may be viewed at the Facebook page of GSP - https://www.facebook.com/Geological-Society-of-the-Philippines-172188472827844/.-----About the guest speaker: Dr. Teofilo A. Abrajano, Jr. is a Balik Scientist of Dept. of Science and Technology. His expertise include Earth Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Geoscience and Geology, Geochemistry, Isotope Geochemistry, Biogeochemistry. Some of his research works are about ophiolites, petroleum biomarkers, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), isotope fractionation, paleoceanography, isotope analysis, molecular and isotope characterization, molecular tracers, and sediments. [2]Dr. Abrajano's other affiliations include:● Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Professor, Isotope Geochemistry, 1998● Argonne National Laboratory, South Cass Ave., Argonne, Illinois, Scientist, Environmental Research Division, 1997 - 1998● Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Director, Environmental Science Program, 2001● Division of Earth Sciences (GEO), US National Science Foundation Arlington, VA, Head, Surface Earth Processes Section, 2006 - 2009● Memorial University of Newfoundland, Prince Philipps Drive, St. John's, NL, Canada, Associate to Full Professor, Department of Earth Sciences, 1991 - 1998Since 2015, he has worked as Director at the Office of Sponsored Research, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.In 1977, he graduated from the University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City with a degree in B.S. Geology. Then he had his Master's degree in Earth Science in 1981 at the University of Akron in Ohio, U.S.A. In 1984, Dr. Abrajano studied in Washington University, U.S.A. and graduated with a degree as Doctor of Philosophy in Earth and Planetary Sciences. In 2010, he received the Balik Scientist Award from the Department of Science and Technology in the Philippines.-----One of the attendees of the webinar was Dr. Graciano Yumul, Jr., Executive Vice President for Geology, Exploration and Operations at Apex Mining Co. Inc. After the event, he commented, "The GSP-sponsored webinar yesterday, May 26, 2020, was educational with a lot of practical messages. I learned a lot and I am sure the other participants did too. The webinar meeting went for almost two hours with interesting questions and comments coming from the participants.” “Foresighting, the corresponding drivers, passive vis-à-vis active resiliency, globalization/ internationalization, the World Economic Forum global risk outlook, and the Accenture post-COVID-19 'Human Truths' were some of the takeaways during the meeting. The importance of artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning and related big data science management were highlighted. Indeed, the FIRe (Fourth Industrial Revolution) is here. But the aspect that I enjoyed most during the talk is the bridging of all these sciences, specifically in the context of the geosciences, with the present realities of the world we live in and the possibilities out there, especially in the context of social and cultural backgrounds."He added, "It was a well-spent two-hour presentation and Q&A session. Dr. Jun Abrajano, as anticipated, has given an excellent presentation. Congratulations to the GSP for this initiative (the second in the series), a welcome respite from the lockdowns and you name what that we are all experiencing now." [1]Dr. Yumul is a former Undersecretary for R&D at the Department of Science and Technology.-----Reference[1] Retrieved from - https://www.facebook.com/Geological-Society-of-the-Philippines-172188472827844/[2] Retrieved from SPHERES - Specialized Philippine Enterprise Reference of Experts and Scientistshttp://spheres.dost.gov.ph/sci-profile.php?i=001471

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Mining

Philippine Resources - April 06, 2021

Philippines Unlikely to Fulfill China's Nickel Ore Requirements

Despite the resumption of many mining operations in the region, the Philippines is unlikely to fulfill China's nickel ore requirements, according to an S&P report. Philippine mined nickel production is expected to increase over the next five years, according to an S&P Global Market Intelligence industry survey, as producers aim to satisfy Chinese nickel ore demand. However, S&P analysts said, “We believe that legislation will remain a major hurdle for restarts and new projects, therefore the Philippines will be unable to meet Chinese nickel ore demand over our forecast period.” Three nickel mines in the world that had been closed due to the coronavirus disease in 2019 were reopened in 2020 when the government turned to the mining industry to help offset the economic effects of the disease (Covid-19). These restarts and demand from current mining facilities, according to foreign analysts, are expected to raise Philippine mined nickel output from 340,000 tonnes in 2020 to 550,000 tonnes in 2025. “However, we believe that existing environmental restrictions on Philippine mining will limit the scope for further mine restarts or additional production from new mining projects in the medium term,” S&P analysts said. “This will prevent the Philippines from meeting China’s nickel ore requirements in Indonesia’s absence, driving Chinese primary output down from an estimated 715,000 tonnes in 2020 to 490,000 tonnes in 2025.” The Philippine Nickel Industry Association (PNIA) previously reported that the country's nickel export value increased by P1 billion from January to September 2020, compared to P24 billion in the same timeframe last year. According to a survey from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), the Philippine nickel industry produced 18.5 million dry metric tons (DMT) in 2020, down 14% from the previous year's 21.6 million DMT production. MGB stated that the lower output was primarily due to the increased community quarantine imposed by Covid-19 from March to May 2020, during which mineral product movement was restricted across the world. The increased performance in export value for the nickel industry, according to PNIA President Dante Bravo, was primarily motivated by demand increases in nickel prices. China's consistent demand boosted the world nickel price in 2020.

Economic

Philippine Resources - April 06, 2021

Forecasts for PH Development in 2021 Have Been Reduced

Fitch Solutions, a London-based think tank, has slashed its economic growth forecast for the Philippines this year, citing the return to tough lockdown measures in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, which is expected to dampen domestic investment in the short term. Fitch Solutions now expects the Philippines' actual gross domestic product (GDP) to rise by 5.8% this year, down from the initial estimate of 7.6%, due to the government's capital spending push being derailed. “The surge in COVID-19 cases in the Philippines in March and lockdown measures imposed reflect the continued risks to the archipelago’s economic outlook,” the think tank said in a research note dated April 1. The government has reimposed curfew policies in Metro Manila and neighbouring provinces, affecting an unprecedented 24 million inhabitants, as it struggles to control the pandemic. Given the continuing increase in cases and the long-term effect on hospital capacity, Fitch Solutions expects the lockout steps to be extended beyond two weeks. “The likelihood of further outbreaks in other regions remains high and given the slow vaccination rollout in the country (less than 1 per cent of the population has been vaccinated as of end-March) we believe the Philippines’ recovery will continue to be hampered by the pandemic,” Fitch Solutions said. Regional outlook The think tank went on to say that its new estimate of 5.8% also had downside risks. It stated that its forecast for a moderate recovery this year was based on the assumption that domestic demand would steadily improve and the government's investment plans would be realized, resulting in a sharp increase in domestic activity. “However, the slow vaccine rollout and recurrent difficulties in containing outbreaks look set to stall the recovery further,” it noted. A survey of economists in the Asean-5 and India found that the Philippines' growth projection was 5.2 per cent, down from 5.9 per cent in the previous poll last December. Although Asian countries that carried out mass vaccination earlier, such as India, Indonesia, and Singapore, saw their near-term economic prospects boost, gradual inoculation tempered economists' growth aspirations for the Philippines, according to a poll released on Monday by the think tank Japan Center for Economic Research (JCER). Economists following the Philippines predicted that GDP will contract by 3.8 per cent year on year in the first quarter, up from 0.7 per cent a year before. GDP will rise 8.4% year over year in the second quarter, 5.6 per cent in the third quarter, and 4.5 per cent in the fourth quarter due to base effects from last year's low. Malaysia and Thailand, including the Philippines, have weaker growth forecasts for 2021. “Most economists see the rollout of COVID-19 vaccination as one of the most significant positive developments over the last three months and all three upward-trending countries have rolled out vaccinations relatively sooner. This may have improved economists’ outlooks. Delays in vaccination and the spread of COVID-19 variants are listed as factors that might damage the economies,” JCER said. Top concerns Faster dissemination of COVID-19 variants and delayed vaccination, or "corona shock," were described as top economic issues in the Philippines, but higher inflation was also identified as a major threat to the country's recovery from the pandemic-induced recession. According to analysts, headline inflation will average 4.5 per cent in the first quarter, 4.8 per cent in the second, 4.7 per cent in the third, and 4.2 per cent in the fourth quarter, averaging 4.5 per cent in 2021, way above the target range of 2-4 per cent. With a 6.1 per cent increase, Singapore is forecast to lead economic growth in the Asean-5 this year, led by Malaysia's 5.3 per cent and Philippines' 5.2 per cent. According to the JCER report, India will rise at a higher rate of 11.2 per cent in 2021. Economists predicted that the Philippines' average GDP growth will be 6% in 2022, up from 5.8% in December but still below the government's goal.

Construction

Philippine Resources - April 06, 2021

Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge Expected to Open in June 2021

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is concentrating not only on the civil work’s development of the Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge Project but also on keeping the workplace secure and clean. DPWH Secretary Mark A. Villar said, "that at 86 per cent and with just a few more days to fully complete the new Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge, we are mindful that a single case of COVID-19 in the project can lead to an interruption, if not total work stoppage" Secretary Villar recently issued revised guidelines in Department Order #30 for the implementation of ECQ, MECQ, GCQ, and MGCQ infrastructure projects, both public and private, during the public health crisis. "Although the bridge project is being rushed for completion in June 2021, it is critical that construction firms be proactive rather than reactive in dealing with the increased risk of illness from COVID-19," Secretary Villar added.  Emil K. Sadain, Undersecretary for Unified Project Management Office (UPMO) Operations, and UPMO Roads Management Cluster 1 Project Manager Benjamin Bautista checked the physical progress of the bridge project on Monday, April 5, 2021, and the contractor's compliance with protocols that cover prevention, detection, and rapid response to maintain construction work continuity as workers who have been living in the barracks resume work after the Lenten season. “Let’s get to work healthy to get the job done”, Undersecretary Sadain reminded the contractor China Road and Bridge Corporation citing the current health situation, particularly in the NCR Plus bubble.   In his report to Secretary Villar, Undersecretary Sadain reported that the project is more than 12% ahead of time, having completed all bridge substructure works for abutments A and B on both sides and piers of the Makati approach bridge; the V-shaped piers for the Main Bridge; concrete box girder for the approach bridge; and the V-shaped piers for the Main Bridg; and two (2) prestressed concrete box girder segments using the traditional approach. Post-tensioning and grouting works, formworks and rebar installation for the closure section in the side spans, formworks installation for the 2-meter closure section in the main bridge span, and preparatory works for approach road construction on both sides are now the focus of bridge construction activities. The new 506-linear meter bridge, funded by China and introduced by the DPWH UPMO - Roads Management Cluster 1 (Bilateral), would have a diameter of 21.65 meters, capable of four (4) lanes instead of two (2), and three-meter sidewalks on both sides. The P1.46 billion new Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge, which is scheduled to be completed in the second quarter of 2021, will handle 50,000 vehicles a day and minimize travel time between Mandaluyong and Makati to 12 minutes. The bridge will connect Estrella Street in Makati to Barangka Drive in Mandaluyong, helping to relieve traffic congestion on EDSA by providing an alternative route for motorists.

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