Patricia A. O. Bunye - August 30, 2022

Leadership Lessons from President FVR

Allow me to take this opportunity to pay my respects to our 12th President, Fidel Valdez Ramos, who passed away on 31 July 2022.  PFVR is credited with many things, including ushering a period of stability and creating an environment conducive for investments, but the mining industry is understandably most grateful to him for the passage during his term of Republic Act No. 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act.  The Mining Act was but one of the pieces of legislation that were part of “Steady Eddie’s” road to Philippines 2000, which included breaking Marcos Sr.-era monopolies.  Surely no one misses the days when there was only one airline and one phone company, or when there were daily power outages. While I never had the honor and privilege of working for him, I was always in awe of his leadership style. PFVR is well known for having institutionalized complete staff work or “CSW” in Malacanang which, simply put, admonishes all government agencies and his subordinates to “do their homework” before any document reaches his desk. Later administrations would follow his lead and further flesh out and provide details and timelines for more effective CSW.  If I am not mistaken, it was also PFVR’s administration which began using barcodes to track incoming documents. Before the internet age, PFVR was already fond of clipping news articles and writing marginal notes on them in his legendary red pen which we would send to government officials very early in the morning by fax.  These notes would either be reminders, action items or a simple pat on the back.  An aide de camp who spoke at his wake ruefully recounted that his days were filled with collating news clippings for his workaholic boss from dawn until late evening.  At the end of the day, “The Boss” would still ask, “wala na bang papel diyan?”, meaning he was still willing to work when others much younger than he were already exhausted. Listening to other eulogists who shared their memories of PFVR, I was struck by several recurring themes of their years working with him. These were men who were not politicians, but who knew him as a military officer in the field, and who saw him face the challenges of both military and civilian life. From their comments, I gleaned the following leadership lessons PFVR-style:  Take care of your people.  As a military commander, he would not leave checking on the troops to lower ranking officers.  A subordinate recounts being surprised that a younger FVR would go to the field with a bag of medals both as a reward for the hard work of his men and a way of comforting them through their difficulties. According to Brig. Gen. Anthony Alcantara, one important lesson he learned from PFVR is: “(I)f you care enough for the nation you serve, act decisively on what needs to be done.  There is no place far enough or isolated enough that cannot be reached if you wanted to.  Honor every effort as soon as possible of those who sacrificed enough to fulfill their duties.” If you need something done well, put in the time and resources to make it happen.  PFVR’s battlecry was “Let’s show them how to work” and work hard he did, spending long days which would often begin with running with the troops at 4am, which would allow him to hit several birds with one stone: meeting and discussing work concerns while bonding with his team. After the siege of the Manila Hotel on 05 July 1986, when those responsible were only meted pushups when they returned to their barracks, then-AFP Chief of Staff Ramos was severely criticized for the light treatment given to the putschists, ½ of whom belonged to the Constabulary, which he formerly headed. His aides say that lesson to be learned from that experience is: know your true intentions (in taking a course of action).  PFVR then recognized the fragility of the new-post EDSA democracy.  He knew then that his true objective was to unify the AFP which was severely politicized and that any punishment would further divide it.  Keeping the organization intact, professional and strong was worth any criticism hurled at him. Make your organization function well. Be prepared. Anticipate all contingencies. Take every opportunity to improve yourself and serve others well Ask “are you part of the problem or part of the solution”? Strive for a win-win solution.  One former aide recounted a PFVR trick of getting warring cabinet members to come to an agreement by asking them to meet in a small conference room and to revert to him only after they had a workable solution.  Anything important needs to be written.  Despite his famous photographic memory, he was a stickler for writing notes even on the golf course. Practice attentive listening.  An aide recounts a gaffe when he only caught PFVR saying the word “barber” and, in his haste, called former Sen. Robert Barbers, when all PFVR wanted was a haircut.  Lesson learned: don’t assume, but always seek clarification when in doubt. Throughout his six years as President, PFVR was always on-point and on-message with the direction he wanted to take (“Kaya Natin Ito!”).  Whether or not you agreed with him, there was no equivocation about his position.  He also effectively used wit and humor to defuse tense situations, including with the press. Two thumbs up, Mr. President.  Mabuhay!


Patricia A. O. Bunye - July 04, 2022

Diwata plans award for best SDMP programs

As Diwata-Women in Resource Development, Inc. (“Diwata”) marks its tenth-year anniversary on July 18 this year (incidentally, also Nelson Mandela Day), it takes pride announcing the launch of an award to recognize the best Social Development & Management Program that specifically benefits indigenous peoples, specifically women and girls. When Diwata was founded ten years ago, it sought, among others, to serve as a positive platform for dialogue on contentious issues on mining and natural resources and to promote understanding by bringing together and promoting meaningful connections among stakeholders.  It also sought to protect and safeguard the rights of indigenous people, women and communities. Its flagship project, Tanging Tanglaw: Turning Grandmothers into Solar Engineers [more popularly known as the “Solar Lolas” Project in cooperation with our partners, the Land Rover Club of the Philippines and the Philippine Mine Safety and Environment Association (PMSEA)] has enabled the training of Aeta Women from 2 communities in Bamban, Tarlac and Gala, Zambales at the Barefoot College in Tilonia, India to assemble, repair and maintain solar panels.  The Solar Lolas have since returned to their communities where these panels have been installed and are now working.  The second phase of the project was a financial literacy program, which Diwata ran in collaboration with FWD Insurance, to reinforce the idea that the principle behind the project is that the community will put  the money they used to spend on kerosene and other sources of energy into a fund which will now be spent on the solar panels and other community-administered livelihood projects.  FWD Insurance will remain Diwata’s partner for the third phase of the program, a longer-term livelihood program with the locators at the Clark Development Freeport Zone.  Diwata has an MOU with Clark Development Corporation and the Bases Conversion & Development Authority for the use of two classrooms at the Clark Skills and Training Center, Clark Green City, which are charged to these agencies’ respective Gender & Development Funds. The Solar Lolas Project was originally conceived and pitched to mining companies a possible model for community development, which we hoped was something that could be successfully replicated in different areas of the Philippines.  However, despite the generally positive response to the project, some mining companies were lukewarm to the idea.  Among the disappointing responses were: “it does not tick the boxes to comply with the Social Development and Management Program (SDMP) under the Mining Act”; “the current project is beyond our project area – it will require us to go beyond what the law requires”; and “the communities have gotten used to company dole outs”. Under the law and its implementing rules, the SDMP refers to the comprehensive five-year plan of the companies to conduct their actual mining and milling operations towards the sustained improvement in the living standards of the host and neighboring communities.  Specifically, it covers: Promotion of general welfare of those living in host and neighboring barangay communities Advancement of mining technology and geosciences Institutionalizing Information, Education and Communication (IEC) programs for greater public awareness and understanding of responsible mining and geosciences Companies are required to allocate an annual budget of one and half percent (1.5%) of their annual operating costs for their respective SDMPs, allocated as follows: The companies are also required to prepare their SDMPs in consultation and in partnership with the host and neighboring communities to ensure that the programs are responsive to the communities’ needs, demands, and concerns.  The program should also be reviewed every five to accommodate the changing needs of the recipient communities. The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) periodically allows realignments of the SDMP. In the past, mining companies were allowed to realign the unutilized/unspent SDMP funds to assist typhoon victims within the host and neighboring communities, as well as the non-impact barangays in their respective localities. In 2020, pursuant to MGB Memorandum dated 27 March 2020 mining companies were again allowed to realign unutilized SDMP funds to assist the host and neighboring communities, as well as the non-impact barangays in their respective localities, during the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine due to COVID-19.  In this regard, many mining companies could be considered “frontliners” in responding to the needs of host and neighboring communities, as well as the non-impact barangays in their respective localities during the pandemic as could be shown in the final report issued by the MGB Central Office on the utilization of the total of PhP 407.6M budgeted by the companies, with PhP 380.1M expended. The companies’ community relations offices regularly submit reports to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau detailing their compliance with the SDMP.  Considering, the significant resources that are required to be allocated to the SDMP, and the real opportunity for companies to create self-reliant communities through the programs they implement, it is important for them to choose programs which are truly transformative and which have a lasting impact on the lives of the members of the community. Since the primary objective of SDMP is to help create sustainable communities, Diwata would like to support this effort by launching our award to recognize and encourage companies that not only comply with the requirements of the law, but also go above and beyond by offering fresh and innovative approaches, particularly in promoting the rights and welfare of IP women. As this column is being written, Diwata is finalizing the criteria for the award to be announced on the date on our tenth anniversary on July 18, with the award to be given at the PMSEA’s Annual National Mine Safety & Environment Conference in Baguio in November 2022.  Watch out for the details!


Fernando Penarroyo - June 28, 2022

My Tampakan Experience

President Rodrigo R. Duterte issued an order last year that lifted the ban on open-pit mining imposed in 2017. The lifting of the ban would have allowed the $5.9-billion Tampakan copper-gold mine project to proceed, the largest untapped copper-gold deposit in Southeast Asia and one of the world’s biggest. Sagittarius Mines, Inc. holds the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (“FTAA”) to operate at the site, which reportedly has a potential of 15 million tons of copper and 17.6 million ounces of gold.  The Tampakan copper-gold project was again recently placed in the limelight when Governor Tamayo of South Cotabato vetoed a provincial board resolution lifting the ban on open-pit mining in the province. The governor said he vetoed the lifting of the ban on open-pit mining for being prejudicial to the public welfare and inimical to the overall interest of the province. To add to the confusion, the governor stressed that this however, did not affect the operation of the stalled Tampakan copper-gold project stating that the ordinance was limited to the scope of the local government’s authority and covered small-scale mining. The ordinance, according to the governor, has nothing to do with whatever the national government decides on large-scale mining. However, Tamayo appealed to the provincial board not to override the veto and allow the incoming Sanggunian to conduct its review of the province’s Ordinance No. 4 Series of 2010 otherwise known as the “South Cotabato Environment Code”. Tamayo’s move was met with jubilation by environmental, religious, and other groups opposed to the Tampakan project. These developments brought back memories of my time as lawyer for the project operated by the original FTAA holder. Entry of Western Mining Corporation Western Mining Corporation (“WMC”) arrived in 1987 and during the next ten years evaluated many exploration sites. In 1990, Gerry Palermo, a Davao-based businessman who headed a group of mining claims held by members of the Visayan community in South Cotabato, introduced the prospect to WMC. In a contract denominated as "Tampakan Option Agreement" dated 25 April 1991, WMC Resources International Pty. Ltd. (WMC), a wholly owned subsidiary of Western Mining Corporation Holdings Limited, a publicly listed major Australian mining and exploration company, through its local subsidiary Western Mining Corporation (Philippines), Inc. (“WMCP”) acquired the mining claims of Southcot Mining Corporation, Tampakan Mining Corporation, and Sagittarius Mines, Inc. Geophysical and geochemical surveys were completed in 1992 and the results identified a target for exploration drilling in 1993. The Philippine government awarded to WMCP an FTAA on 30 March 1995, a month before the Mining Act of 1995 went into effect on April 30 and before the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (“IPRA”) was passed into law in 1997. The original FTAA covered 99,3876 hectares in the quad-boundary of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Davao del Sur and North Cotabato. In early 1998, WMCP announced a large tonnage, low-grade mineral resource of 900 million tons at 0.75 percent copper and 0.30 gram per ton gold using a copper cut-off grade of .50 percent. In 1997, the La Bugal-B’laan Tribal Association of Columbio, Sultan Kudarat challenged the constitutionality of the Mining Act, asserting that its provisions regarding 100% foreign ownership of companies engaged in mining as well as other provisions of the said law went against the 1987 Philippine Constitution. In 27 January 2004, the Supreme Court (“SC”) declared the Mining Act unconstitutional, thereby voiding the FTAA issued to WMCP. However, the SC overturned its own decision in December of the same year. Principal Agreements with Stakeholders In accordance with the terms of its FTAA, WMCP sought agreements with the three provinces - South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Davao del Sur - and their respective municipalities - Tampakan, Columbio, and Kiblawan, as well as five Barangay Councils - Pula Bato, Danlag and Tablu in Tampakan, Datal Blao in Columbio, and Kimlawis in Kiblawan. The five barangays are also home to B’laan communities which occupy the more remote upland areas where actual mining was to take place. These are Bong Mal, Folu Bato, Danlag, Salna’ong and S’banken. The B’laans are one of 18 indigenous groups living in Mindanao, who are largely concentrated in the provinces of South Cotabato, Davao del Sur and Sultan Kudarat. Most of them are still engaged in subsistence farming, with corn and rice being the main produce. Originally, the B’laans lived on the fertile plains but were forced to move to the mountains when the government started bringing in majority Cebuanos and Ilonggos from the Visayas during the early 1900’s. Prior to the arrival of WMCP, traditional ownership of land at the site of the proposed mine site was not recognized by the government. B’laans occupied public or forest lands, which were non alienable and under the jurisdiction of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (“DENR”). In 1993, DENR Administrative Order No. 2 established procedures for the issuance of Certificates of Ancestral Domain Claims (“CADC”) which recognized indigenous peoples’ claim based on traditional association to land, and recognition of their right of occupation and land-use management. In November 1997, IPRA was passed and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (“NCIP”) was created. WMCP supported a non-government organization and hired anthropologists and sociologists to convince the B’laans to apply for CADCs and establish formal tribal councils. These were done so that the company could have legal entities to negotiate agreements with, in relation to legally delineated land areas over which these IPs had legally recognized claims. WMCP collected the necessary data and sponsored the five B’laan communities in their applications for CADCs with the DENR. The research presented in the CADCs focused on three tasks - identification of stakeholders, delimitation of their occupancy, and estimation of the time they and their ancestors have been resident there. Initially, WMCP obtained Heads of Agreement with B’laan leaders and sought stronger and more representative organizations for Principal Agreements. WMCP stated that the Heads of Agreement and successive Principal Agreements were drawn up in accordance with the traditional Kasfala negotiation and more binding Diandi blood compact as per B’laan traditions. The agreements were negotiated, signed, and implemented in accordance with an Execution Protocol, guidelines based on Australian resource companies’ experiences in dealing with native aboriginal communities. Professor Michael Crommelin, who was a former Dean of the University of Melbourne Law School, assisted in the preparation of the Execution Protocol. He teaches several courses on Constitutional Law, Mineral and Petroleum Law, and Resources Joint Ventures. Managing Conflicts Between Indigenous B’laans and Visayan Settlers WMCP like any other foreign companies was subjected to the local socio-political dynamics of conflict and accommodation in the area where it operated. This was particularly true in how the company cautiously threaded the ethnic division between the indigenous B’laans and the Visayan settler communities. While they were ethnically different, they were of a generally uniform economic profile - that is tenant farmers. Local animosity between B’laans and Visayans was found to have historical and ethnic roots. Visayan prejudice stemmed from their settlement of this frontier region since the 1930s, and they generally viewed B’laans as primitive and pagan. On the other hand, B’laans regarded Visayans with fear as land grabbers and felt discriminated when it came to economic opportunities. With the entry of WMCP to the area, increased in-migration to traditional B’laan land by Visayan settlers, as a result of anticipated employment opportunities and real estate speculation, was exacerbating challenges facing the company and host communities. Although ancestral land which has not yet been titled was non-alienable, “rights” were being purchased by Visayans from B’laans. The presence of the company led a renewed interest in land within the proposed mining area in order for the speculators to benefit from the mining company’s compensation packages and economic opportunities. The question of landownership and the problem of land disputes became an issue of importance and concern for the company. Moreover, the award of communal title to indigenous people clashed with the aspirations of other groups who were invariably present within the ancestral lands. Those of Visayan origin felt discriminated against because they were not getting as much attention from the company as the indigenous B’laan communities. Portions of the ancestral land were shared with Visayan settlers who bitterly opposed the issuance of CADCs. The communal claims to ancestral land conflicted with the interests of Visayan settlers, who having acquired titles in some areas, had also legitimate legal claims. In December 1996, Visayan residents of Tampakan barricaded roads leading to the proposed mine site in opposition to the scheduled signing of the B’laan Principal Agreements, compelling the company to expedite the negotiation of land access agreements with the Visayan settlers and local governments. My Personal Insights What was my role in all of these? I was a new lawyer then and had the opportunity to watch all these events unfold during my early legal career. I joined WMCP in 1996, almost straight out of law school and after my stint as a petroleum geologist working at the Department of Energy (“DOE”). I was headhunted by the company who was then looking for an understudy for its Australian legal manager. As a working student balancing my time as a geologist and studying law at night in the University of the Philippines, I didn’t have much experience in mining or mining laws. At that time, the Mining Act just became law and the Marcopper accident in Marinduque was a hot news item. I believe that in my final WMCP interview, what convinced the panel was my experience and  knowledge in negotiating petroleum service contracts which was part of my job at the DOE. WMCP’s FTAA and service contracts have a lot in common since both have the same constitutional basis allowing 100% foreign ownership of companies engaged in the exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources. Upon my acceptance to the company, I have to hit the ground running. There were ongoing public consultations on the Mining Act’s implementing rules and regulations following public clamor and anger from the Marcopper accident. I also needed to study the nuances not only of mining law but also laws relating to forestry, indigenous people’s right, environment, and local government. As part of my preparation to eventually handle the responsibility of heading the local legal department, the company seconded me to work in its various business units in Australia in 1997. I worked at the corporate offices in Perth, Brisbane, and Melbourne on Australian mining projects with both WMC and its construction contractors. I also had a stint in an Australian law firm, which had a very advanced practice group in resources, construction, and native title law. For my mine exposure trips, I drove alone in outback roads and visited WMC mine sites at far-flung locations. I even visited some aboriginal communities to witness the company’s corporate social responsibility activities. My life as a Filipino expat lawyer in Australia was both rewarding and enriching. Returning from my Australian secondment, the first order of the day was to work on securing all the land access agreements in preparation for the mine development area. This entailed spending my time not in the comforts of our spacious Makati office but in the highlands of Tampakan for immersion with the communities, both Visayan and B’laan. I was basically living and breaking bread with  farmers, politicians, and traditional strongmen in the communities. The areas which I visited were especially notorious for kidnappings by armed bandit groups where Islamic and communist insurgents also operated. It was wild, wild west in that part of Mindanao during that time but was certainly an eyeopener as I was exposed to extreme poverty in the uplands especially that of the IPs. I visited all the local government units which have jurisdictions on the proposed mine development area. I conferred with Visayan settler, indigenous, and Muslim communities. One couldn't imagine the volume of native and instant coffee I have taken in my numerous consultations. It would be the height of disrespect to decline whatever the households and offices could humbly offer to me especially someone from a place they derisively called “Imperial Manila”. The more consultations I conducted in a day, the more cups of “sweetened” coffee I was expected to partake. WMCP offered an option to develop the communities but the project has to gain social acceptability. It was also the company’s responsibility to prepare the marginalized communities and local governments for the anticipated surge in economic activity with the proposed mine development. Our objective was to put the agreements into place. However, the company had to act pragmatically in managing its own corporate strategy and balance it with the interests of the Visayan local government, the requirements of the national government, and B’laan traditions. We started with the agreements with the B’laans because they will be the first to be affected since the mine site is within their ancestral domain. This is the reason why in our discussions with the communities, we have to follow a strict and tenacious Execution Protocol. There would be no shortcuts to obtain the consent of the IP communities who were at a relative disadvantaged compared to the company. The Execution Protocol met with some hesitance even within the company. It was my responsibility that the community relations and corporate affairs departments strictly adhered to the protocol and WMC’s Code of Conduct. Their job was to get the principal agreements signed but my job goes beyond the signing of the agreements - the process should strictly adhere to the guidelines of getting the free and informed prior consent of the communities. WMC, the mother company, then was a relatively large listed resources company in Australia  with global operations. All eyes were on the company because of the sensitive issue of working in a remote developing country with native title, environmental, and social acceptability issues. In fact, WMCP’s Execution Protocol had a heavy influenced in the NCIP’s administrative orders in obtaining free and prior informed consent from IPs. The company did its best to get its message across to the host communities. For the Visayan settlers, there was relative ease in our consultations because of their level of education. It was a different story with the B’laan IP communities. We have to bring in local B’laan interpreters and translate the main points of the agreement to the local vernacular. Although the final signed agreement were written in English, all the consultations were done at the communities and in the presence of NCIP officials. The company was accused of “wining and dining” the leaders of the IP communities and bribery through its community development and scholarship initiatives, coming especially from the Social Action Center of the Diocese of Marbel. As far as I am concerned, I have not witnessed those occurences. The company even played hosts to numerous international human rights and legislative fact-finding missions. Everyone was invited to visit and see for themselves the numerous activities being done by the company. What I do know was that local B’laans in the area have not been comfortable civil society groups as well. In fact the La Bugal B’laan group which was the petitioner in the FTAA constitutional challenge was not based within the mine development area. It was based in the Poblacion of Columbio Sultan Kudarat, which was the least affected area if the mine operated. WMCP was also accused of employing goons. All evil schemes, shenanigans, and machinations were by default, attributed by civil society groups to WMCP. There was one instance where I have to personally appear on behalf of the company for an NBI investigation conducted in Cotabato City in relation to the assassination of a town mayor in Sultan Kudarat. The case against the company obviously did not prosper but one has to imagine the immense hostility and black propaganda against the company by certain sectors. We were free to roam in the FTAA area even traveling to areas called “no man’s land” where lose and unlicensed firearms proliferated in the hinterlands. Despite the banditry and insurgency, we did so without any armed bodyguards. When I travelled to the communities, I was only accompanied by a company driver or fellow employee. I didn’t experience any form of harassment but the company was fully aware of my destination and schedule. Except for the occasional barricades brought about by personal grievances against the company, there were no instances of burning of company properties or killing of employees and contractors during my time working with WMCP. Most of the barricades were related to unsettled crop damages, labor issues or petty misunderstandings with company employees and contractors. The company had to balance the employment opportunities among the locals so it has to implement a rotational labor hiring among the locals. With the signing of four out of five Principal Agreements with the IP communities, the next task was to create the B’laan foundations to manage the funds intended for the communities. Because of the veto power of the company and the government representatives from NCIP and Mines and Geosciences Bureau, the tribal council representatives in the B’laan foundations were understandably weak. Even some of the B’laans were ambivalent to the tribal council system. At that time, the tribal councils have had little influence, and the local government units tended to ignore them. This was perhaps the reason why there was intense criticism on the government-sponsored tribal council system insofar as it was susceptible to manipulation. In 1999, there was already uneasiness among WMCP’s employees and stakeholders because operations were being scaled down. In anticipation of the company’s eventual withdrawal from the Philippines, retrenchments of employees and budget cuts were becoming common. Some permanent employees including myself were given the pink slip and made contractual employees. This was when I decided to accept a scholarship to pursue graduate law studies in Australia. I initially had misgivings in accepting the offer because at that time in 2000, I had a young family and taken a loan to finance our first home. Going to graduate school would cause a dent to our financial situation since I would be out of work for eighteen months and my family had to rely on my wife’s income. My boss in WMCP talked me into accepting the offer because he explained that it would benefit my career in the long term. WMC also supported me in a small way in my law graduate studies at the University of Melbourne. Our head office in Melbourne would give me occasional  part time work to augment my meager scholarship allowance. In 2001, WMCP which had invested $39 million for exploration and support activities in its Tampakan project decided to pull out of the country. Following an evaluation of the mineral resources of its mining site in Tampakan, the company decided that it would not be able to meet a rate of return on investment acceptable to WMC. WMCP said it also took into account the continuing drop in the price of copper in the world market at that time. WMC sold its rights and interests to Sagittarius Mines, Inc. The sale and transfer of its mining rights paved the way for WMC’s complete pull-out from the Philippines. When I came back from my law studies, the task waiting for me was winding up the company’s business and financial accounts. The companies’ properties - lock, stock, and barrel, were turned over to the FTAA assignee. As a gesture of courtesy, WMCP personally delivered letters to the LGUs, tribal councils, and stakeholders informing them of the company’s withdrawal from the project. It was also an opportunity to introduce the new company taking over the project to the communities. After everything was set into place, I was the last employee of WMCP - the person who turned off the office lights. My Tampakan experience provided me with fond memories of times with co-workers who eventually became good friends, sharing fresh bounties from the Mindanao seas and sweet produce from the volcanic enriched soil of Mt. Matutum. I recall road stops for breakfast of durian, marang, mangosteens, and pomelos in North Cotabato; and lunch of native chicken inasal in Tupi, ubiquitous tuna and blue marlin kinilaw, premium cuts of locally-fattened Australian cattle, mudfish inihaw from Liguasan Marsh, and fat mud crabs from Cotabato City. Our friendship continues to the present especially with social media as the nexus and facilitator. Colleagues became executives of mining companies both locally and internationally, and some were retained by the present project management. Some B’laan groups continue to consult me on several occasions and I tend to believe that they do so because they were convinced of WMCP’s sincere relationship with them when the company operated in the area. After many years since the FTAA was signed in 1995 and with the South Cotabato governor’s pronouncements over his veto, there still remains a big question mark on the final outcome of the Tampakan project. Time is certainly running out for this flagship mining project. As someone who was a part of the Tampakan experience, I can only hope that with the huge amount of financial resources and human capital poured into this project, we will eventually see a favorable outcome to this much anticipated mining project.   Fernando “Ronnie” S. Penarroyo specializes in Energy and Resources Law, Project Finance and Business Development. He may be contacted at 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 Reference: Smith, John Willem, The Challenge of Sustainable Local Development at the Site off the Tampakan Copper Project in the Philippines, UMI Dissertation Publishing, 2014,

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Patricia A. O. Bunye - March 10, 2022

2022 Presidential Candidates: Who truly walks the talk?

Photo credit: Good News Pilipinas As this column is being written, there are less than 100 days to go before the May 9 elections.  Many voters have made their minds up from the outset, some purely based on their visceral reactions to, and past experiences with, the candidates.  However, we owe it to ourselves and future generations to scrutinize the candidates based on their platforms and advocacies, although time and again we are reminded that most campaign promises are made to be broken. For the mining industry, the obvious primary point of comparison would be the candidates’ position on mining and the development of our natural resources. After all, the Philippine Constitution itself recognizes the role that mining plays in our economic life by providing the framework for the exploration, development and utilization of mineral resources. The candidates’ respective positions on mining have been made public through their recent interviews and statements, including the debates that a certain candidate has been pointedly avoiding. Speaking to Boy Abunda, instead of Jessica Soho who he claims is biased, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said he is open to allowing “sustainable  mining”, while expressing aversion toward open-pit mining.  Marcos Jr. said he recognizes that mining is a big source of revenue for the Philippine government, and that in these difficult times, we should take advantage of our vast natural resources.   On open-pit mining, he cited the pollution that it allegedly causes and post-mine closure issues.  He also called for improving the working conditions and compensation received by mine workers. Vice President Leni Robredo, for her part, has stated that she supports “responsible mining” and ensuring the protection of the environment.  She believes that the benefits from mining should go back to local communities and contribute to holistic national development.  She has also stated that she will continue to push for respect for the rights of indigenous peoples, which has been her advocacy from her days as an “alternative lawyer” and for “honest to goodness consultation” with the communities affected by mining.   She, however, said she would immediately cancel President Duterte’s Executive Order 130 lifting the moratorium on new mineral agreements, issue an executive order identifying “no-mining areas” and would call for the passage of the National Land Use Act, which she co-authored as a member of Congress.  She also supports the passage of the “Alternative Minerals Bill” which bans mining in critical areas and open-pit mining. Manila Mayor Isko Moreno has said he will support mining as a means of reviving the economy especially after being ravaged by Covid-19, recognizing that mining can attract much-needed foreign direct investments and create jobs.  He said that the government cannot rely on taxation alone and must develop its assets, including minerals, responsibly. Senator Panfilo Lacson said that, if elected President, he will ensure the “responsible” extraction of minerals and eradicate the double standard in the regulation of the mining industry. “Ang mining industry, hindi naman pwede patayin kasi major industry ito ng Pilipinas”, he said.  He has pointed to small scale mining as the source of violations of mining laws and environmental risks, and an area that he will devote attention to, emphasizing that his actions will be “data driven” and “science based”.   He has also called for the creation of a special program and funding for indigenous peoples “who suffer the brunt of irresponsible mining.” Senator Manny Pacquiao believes that the extraction of minerals can be done responsibly and is therefore against banning mining.  He says that the number of mining projects in the country can be controlled and that the government can focus on monitoring open-pit mining. Only “Ka Leody” de Guzman has outrightly called for a ban on mining, saying it endangers the lives of people, specifically citing the effects of Typhoon Yolanda in an area where there is a large-scale mining project.  Instead, he advocates advancing a "just transition to a green economy" as a solution to “destructive extractive industries like mining and logging”.  He said that residents in communities to be rehabilitated should be given the knowledge and skills to conserve the ecology of their environments, which is crucial to the return of their livelihoods in farming and fishing. There is an entire laundry list of other issues on the candidates can be grilled.  However, for the Makati Business Club (MBC) [whose Governance Committee I currently chair] and other business groups, including the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX), Legal Management Council of the Philippines (LMCP), and Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), as well as various Chambers of Commerce, one paramount point is where the candidates stand on Freedom of Information. Freedom of information is enshrined in the Constitution.  The Bill of Rights (Article III), particularly, Section 7, provides “(T)he right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records, and to documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law.”  What we need, therefore, is a law which implements and operationalizes this.  A Freedom of Information (FOI) Law would require government to make public information available to citizens, organizations and businesses.  However, it has been 35 years, and counting, but an FOI Law has still not been passed. From the perspective of FOI advocates, there is no lack of arguments in favor of the passage of an FOI Law.  Good governance reforms are crucial in promoting sustainable and inclusive growth.  This can only happen with clear rules and guidelines, easy access to information, eliminating vagueness in procedures, unchecked discretion among regulators, and inefficiency in the bureaucracy.  An FOI Law would also encourage developing a culture of transparency at all levels. On 23 July 2016, soon after President Duterte assumed office, he issued Executive Order 2, entitled “Operationalizing In The Executive Branch The People’s Constitutional Right To Information And The State Policies To Full Public Disclosure And Transparency In The Public Service And Providing Guidelines Therefor”. While this was a very welcome development, the EO only covers the Executive branch,  including but not limited to, the national government and all its offices, departments, bureaus, offices, and instrumentalities, including government-owned or -controlled corporations, and state universities and colleges.  It  does not, however, cover the legislature, judiciary and or even LGUs, although it encourages them to observe the order.  Interestingly, the EO contains a reminder to all public officials of their obligation to file and make available for scrutiny their Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) in accordance with existing laws, rules and regulations, and “the spirit and letter of the Order”, but the signatory of the EO himself has time and again refused to provide his SALN, which is a basic instrument of transparency. For its part, the Supreme Court issued the Rule on Access to Information About the Supreme Court in 2019. The Supreme Court likewise ordered the creation of FOI Manuals in the entire judiciary.  The Rule on Access to Information About the Supreme Court guarantees one’s “privilege” (but not absolute right) to either obtain a copy, receive the information or gain insight to all information and records or portions of those records in the official custody, possession and control of offices in the Supreme Court. Like all other rights, the “right to know” is not an absolute right.  Excluded are those “non-disclosable information” protected by laws, rules or resolutions of the Supreme Court En Banc. The obvious limitations of these two issuances are that they only cover their respective branches of government.  The goal is to pass an FOI Law which covers all three branches of government, including local governments. The consolidated House Bill (HB 5776) currently pending for approval by the House Committee on Public Information enjoys strong support and has been consistently identified as a legislative priority by the business community.  However, it is highly unlikely that it will pass in this administration, and it is therefore up to the next administration to take up the cudgels. Information is power.  Information will allow us to make better decisions about who we elect to office, how we allow our leaders to allocate and spend our taxes, and also examine the policies they seek to implement.  Information will allow us to be better partners in nation-building.  The right information will empower us to fight and correct misinformation, falsehoods and outright fake news. During the campaign, a number of the presidential candidates have professed support for the concept of “freedom of information”, though some not necessarily for the passage of the law itself.  What is more telling is not what they have said in words, but by their actions through the years, i.e., whether they have led lives of transparency and accountability. The campaign period is therefore a time for us to really sift through the noise and get to know our candidates, both national and local, but most especially the presidential candidates, as to who truly walks the talk.


Fernando Penarroyo - March 10, 2022

Mining Trends 2022: Will the Outlook Remain Positive?

Last year saw miners experiencing record profitability and revenue. While the industry continues to benefit from relative high metal prices and opportunities from the clean energy transition and digital transformation, there are identified risks arising from COVID-19's resurgence and disruptions, potential for weaker-than-expected global economic growth, government intervention, and community opposition. Meanwhile compliance with environment, social and governance (“ESG”) standards will obligate mining companies to protect the environment, contribute to community development, and behave ethically. On the local front, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (“DENR”) Secretary Roy Cimatu lifted the four year-old ban on the open-pit method of mining for copper, gold, silver, and complex ores. Enforced in 2017, the ban was one of the high-impact measures taken by the late DENR Secretary Regina Lopez. The former DENR secretary also ordered the closure of 26 mines. However, with the completion of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council audit which started in 2019, only 3 out of the 26 mines were deemed unsafe and the other closures were reversed. The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines deplored the lost opportunities in the mining sector in the last decade. The chamber believed that the industry has been unjustly scrutinized and subjected to unfair publicity, which cost billions in lost revenue. Foreign direct investment (“FDI”) will remain stagnant for the industry unless regulations are eased and barriers are lowered. The ban also delayed FDIs in open pit mining projects like Sagittarius Mines Inc.’s $5.9-billion Tampakan copper project in South Cotabato and St. Augustine Gold and Copper Ltd.’s $2-billion King-king copper-gold project in Compostela Valley. The lifting of the ban according to the DENR order, is meant to “revitalize the mining industry and usher in significant economic benefits to the country by providing raw materials for the construction and development of other industries and by increasing employment opportunities in rural areas.” With the lifting of the ban, the Department of Finance said the mining industry can become a key contributor to the nation’s economic recovery per DENR’s projection that open-pit mining will lead to the immediate development of 11 pending projects. These projects are expected to generate about PHP11 billion combined in yearly government revenue, increase annual exports by PHP36 billion, and provide employment to 22,880 people living in remote municipalities. Economists see the Philippine economy’s continuing rebound this year after registering a 5.6 percent GDP growth in 2021. However, the outlook is threatened by the emergence of new COVID-19 variants and how the government handles them. Based on the World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects, despite the spike in infections from the omicron variant, the Philippines is poised to register the fastest growth in ASEAN this year and the second highest growth in 2023. According to the World Bank, the projected economic growth rate of 5.9 percent for 2022 will be the fastest growth expected in ASEAN, while the 5.7 percent expected next year will be second only to Vietnam’s 6.5 percent. ESG will dictate investments in mining Miners are under increasing pressure to integrate ESG into corporate strategies, investment decisions, and stakeholder reporting. Demands from shareholders, financial institutions, local communities, national governments, customers, and the sector’s own workforce are requiring miners to adhere to ESG standards. Sustainability in mining means minimizing the consumption of resources, reducing the use of energy through new technologies, and the use of alternative energies. Mining operations must utilize cost-effective and environmentally sound extraction alternatives, and efficient biodiversity and water management. Green transition leads to a low-carbon economy The green transition will accelerate amidst global pressures to reduce carbon footprints. At the latest UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) summit, many mining countries pledged to bring down their methane emissions. The rise in sustainable finance and tighter ESG criteria set by financial institutions on mining projects have led to an upcoming rise in GHG emission costs due to carbon pricing. Reducing emissions will require companies to invest in renewables to energize operations and advanced technologies in their decarbonization efforts. Renewable energy technologies, green buildings, electric vehicles, solar panels, wind turbines and battery storage will rely to a great extent on minerals and metals. Project developers and governments are moving away from investments in thermal coal. Major mining companies, driven by ESG targets, will remove thermal coal projects from their portfolios and coal mining will be dominated by small-cap, pure-play and state-owned mining companies. Coal projects will be mostly self-funded, private equity-funded or state-funded as international banks reduce their financing of coal assets. Miners will have to contend with license to operate (LTO) Miners are under intense scrutiny on how they contribute to the social and economic well-being of local and national governments, engage with host communities and indigenous peoples, and protect water resources and heritage sites. Needless to say, LTO is also linked to a company’s ability to access capital and financing. While metals are a critical input for green transition technology, the mining sector’s social license to operate is contending against the rising public opposition to mines arising from environmental pollution and loss of diversity. The difficulty in acquiring LTO could lead to a slow-down in new project development. New COVID-19 variants will be a game changer Hopefully, COVID-19-linked operational disruption will ease with increased vaccinations. However,  new wave of restrictions with the omicron variant or subsequent waves will be a challenging environment for mining operations in 2022 and will cause a setback in economic recovery. Lockdowns not only hamper mine site operations but also slow down the movement of products and services in the supply chain, and affect consumption of goods. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the increase of costs of inputs, shipping, talent and decarbonization programs. COVID-19 has challenged the deployment of investments in 2020 and to some extent in 2021. Hopefully with the roll out of vaccines especially in emerging economies, COVID-19-related operational disruptions will most likely ease in 2022, helping exploration, construction and mine works to pick up. Mineral demand will continue to grow but metal prices to weaken Global demand for minerals and metals especially arising from the green transition, will continue to grow despite slowing growth in 2022. The outlook for auto manufacturing, machinery, appliances, and consumer electronics sectors is positive. Households with huge savings realized during the pandemic are eager to go into revenge spending. All eyes will be on China’s property development sector woes which will put a cap on overall metal demand in 2022. Evergrande’s financial difficulties and a general slowdown in Chinese construction activity will put pressure on ferrous metal prices. Meanwhile, investments in infrastructure is expected to remain relatively stable. Fitch Solutions forecast that most metal prices to average lower in 2022 but will remain high compared with 2016-2020 averages. Looking at 2022, slowing economic growth, slow normalization in fiscal and monetary policy, and China's property sector woes will push metal prices lower in 2022. However, prices will still average at elevated levels, higher than pre-COVID-19 levels as the market balance for most metals remain extremely tight and stocks are historically low. Existing deposits that are known or held by the majors are being depleted and new ones will be required. Investments in mines and oilfields have dropped sharply over the past five years. The result is “greenflation” in commodity prices, which have had their biggest yearly increase since 1973. Access to Capital will be a challenge amidst upward trend in global exploration budget Access to capital for new projects or expansions will continue to be a challenge for the industry, as investors are deterred by risks associated with ESG, LTO, resource nationalism and geopolitics. Higher ESG ratings can enable access to a larger pool of attractively priced capital. Still, elevated metal prices coupled with an increase in production across commodities in 2022 will help mining and metal companies' financial performance to remain strong next year amidst the acceleration of the green transition and opening up of new business opportunities. However, strict ESG requirements will make development of new projects potentially more difficult. Meanwhile, a report by S&P Global Market Intelligence notes that the aggregate annual global exploration budget is expected to increase between 5% and 15% year over year for 2022. According to S&P, a faster-than-expected recovery in market conditions and easing of lockdowns allowed explorers to reactivate programs by mid-2020, which caused some campaigns to carry over into 2021.  Government intervention intensifies In 2022 Because of the economic and fiscal hardships, and rising social inequality during the pandemic while mining companies are benefitting from elevated metal prices, government intervention in the sector will remain firmly in play in 2022 posing additional risks to mining projects. Companies will  be subjected to resource nationalism in the form of increased taxes and royalties, policies to boost domestic beneficiation, and the renegotiation of contracts to get better terms for the governments. Governments are also developing investment plans to boost their own production or secure minerals that will be key to the green and digital transitions. Thus, miners will also need to contend with  trade wars, geopolitics of the COVID-19 pandemic, and changing governments or policies aimed at protecting strategic resources and increasing “self-sufficiency” in critical products like fossil fuels and rare earths. Automation, digitalization, and electrification to address productivity, safety, and ESG priorities The mine of the future will be less visible and smaller, use less water and energy, less polluting, more productive, and extract minerals more efficiently due to the application of new technologies. Incorporation of new technologies in mining is critical for companies to modernize their operations and meet increasingly stringent environmental and sustainability goals, while remaining competitive and relevant. The automation, digitalization and electrification of mining operations has the potential to increase mine productivity, daily operational capacity, sustainable use of non-renewable resources, operational safety, and productive lifespans of mines. The transition to off-grid mining and battery storage, together with the use of renewable energy to power operations are expected to bring advantages not only in terms of CO2 emissions reduction, but also in terms of helping industry-related companies manage costs. Electrification of mines have the potential to incur lower expenses due to minimal maintenance requirements leading to a reduction of operational downtime. Operational downtime is common among diesel-powered machinery due to the extensive maintenance required for their internal mechanisms that are prone to breakdown. While automation and electrification will result in a decrease of operational input costs, digitization produces predictable data. Data management also converts data into decision-making information. Digital innovation also allows diversification into greener products and improve transparency of reporting. These innovations include artificial intelligence, big data and satellite imagery. However, digitalization also exposes companies to cyber threats and hacking. Technical advances have also been made in waterless processing and waste disposal, and biogenic processes. Technological change in mining will require a workforce with new skills in roles that would be familiar with new technology. There will be a shift in the skills profile for future workers who will need to manage and engage the electric and digital transformation in the industry. A reevaluation of current skills sets will need to be considered as the future mining workforce is likely to change, which will be driven primarily by the adoption of new technologies. Opportune time for new business and operational models Miners now operate in a more volatile environment because of ESG and technology disruptions. They should adopt new business and operational models that will deliver greater returns directly to host communities and governments, minimize waste, reduce emissions, bring more value to investors, and gain low-risk access to capital. Mining and metal players need to accelerate their efforts to benefit from the new opportunities brought about by the green transition. These involve more exposure in energy transition materials and spinning off higher growth businesses linked to the green transition to unlock value. Miners also have opportunities to invest in product differentiation to benefit from green price premiums on lower-carbon products. Product differentiation based on green/ESG credentials and assorted price premiums will make some metals more of a specialized product sector and less of a bulk commodity material. Conclusion Disruptions open the industry to new risks and volatility. The local industry needs to adapt to these disruptions in light of the possibility of a more severe COVID variant and the political uncertainty in the conduct of the coming elections. The lifting of the open pit mining ban was a step in the right direction. However, the incoming government’s stand on mining will determine if the industry will be able to take advantage of the increasing global demand for minerals and metals or miss out on the boat again.   Fernando “Ronnie” S. Penarroyo specializes in Energy and Resources Law, Project Finance and Business Development. He may be contacted at 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 References Ferguson, Mark,  The Big Picture: 2022 Metals and Mining Industry Outlook, S&P Global Market Intelligence, 02 November 2021, Ford, Alastair, The Mining Sector: 4 Key Trends for 2022, Proactive Investors, 27 December 2021, Goosen, Matthew, The Future of Mining Through Electrification, Digitalization and Automation, Energy Capital and Power, 08 September 2021, Mining: News on Mining & Construction Machines, Mining And Metals Key Themes For 2022, Fitch Solutions, 06 October 2021, Mitchell, Paul, Top 10 Business Risks and Opportunities for Mining and Metals in 2022, Ersnt and Young, 07 October 2021, Ordinario, Cai, PHL Will Post Fastest Growth in Asean—WB, BusinessMirror, 12 January  2022, Sharmka, Ruchir, Ten Economic Trends That Could Define 2022, Financial Review, 04 January 2022, Six Global Trends Shaping the Industry, Top Three Technology Trends Set to Disrupt Mining, Australian Mining, 02 December 2021, Upward Trend in Global Exploration Budget to Continue in 2022 – Report, MINING.COM Staff, 19 October 2021, What’s In Store For The Mining Industry In 2022?, Ag Metal Miner, 20 December 2021,


Patricia A. O. Bunye - November 23, 2021

What does ESG mean for the Mining Industry?

In recent years, ESG - environmental, social and governance – has become a major concern in corporate boardrooms: criteria by which strategy is developed and risks are assessed.  While the term may be relatively new [having been coined as late as 2005 in a study of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) entitled “Who Cares Wins”],  it has always been top of mind in the mining industry even if it has not always used the same terminology.  Responsible mining companies have always been concerned about sustainability, care of the environment and working with their host communities towards achieving these goals.  ESG now brings together these in a comprehensive framework that can help a mining company navigate and balance the benefits to the planet, people and profit successfully. ESG is now front and center in the discussion of many boards, even those whose businesses do not generally deal with the environment, as investors are increasingly paying attention to environmental, social and governance-related matters and data.  As Forbes Magazine notes, “many investors recognize that ESG information about corporations is vital to understand corporate purpose, strategy and management quality of companies.”  Increasingly, transactions are done with an eye on ESG issues.  A company’s track record on ESG would certainly influence how it is able to raise funds and attract investments.  In this regard, in their quest to improve diversity and broaden their representation, many boards are electing directors whose expertise and experience encompass ESG. Of course, not all boards have embraced the importance of the ESG framework in their decision-making. In a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review, they classified board attitudes towards ESG into four: “The Deniers”, “The Hardheaded”, “The Superficial”, “The Complacent” and “The True Believers”. “The Deniers” are those who see sustainability as nothing more than a buzzword or a fad, i.e., sustainability is (at most) a page in the annual report. For “The Hardheaded”, sustainability is a factor affecting their business, but reduce it to strategic reasoning (e.g.  how can costs be minimized? are there market opportunities?). “The Superficial” have a shallow understanding of the need for sustainability, including those who implicitly promote greenwashing. “The Complacent” may be early adopters of initiatives like CSR reports, green product lines, or responsible supply chains, but have not kept up-to-date with the latest developments in sustainability, or use past sustainability triumphs to shut down the conversation about sustainability. Hopefully, responsible mining companies fall into the category of “The True Believers”,  for whom  the long-term economic viability of their organization is closely linked to, and dependent on, social and environmental responsibility. True believers undertake careful analysis of business benefits and disadvantages with a long-term approach to governance. With this backdrop, a mining company’s  ESG agenda would now include, among many others: Environment: biodiversity, ecosystem services, water management, mine waste/tailings, air, noise, energy, climate change (carbon footprint, greenhouse gas), hazardous substances, mine closure Social: human rights, land use, resettlement, indigenous people, gender/diversity, labor practices, worker/community health & safety, security, small-scale miners Governance: legal & regulatory compliance, ethics, anti-bribery and corruption, transparency. [Incidentally, at his presentation at the Philippine Mining Club on November 12, Mines & Geosciences Bureau Director Wilfredo G. Moncano announced a forthcoming Department Administrative Order on enhancing biodiversity.] Many mining companies are already taking steps to assess and improve their ESG performance.  Certainly,  for companies in the Philippines, there is a long list of laws and regulations to be complied with that would tick all the ESG boxes.   However, experts says that the real benefits come when companies move beyond mere compliance and into maximizing the opportunities arising from ESG. Mining companies also are being encouraged to improve their ESG records by aligning with internationally recognized frameworks (and seeking certification from the relevant body, if applicable): UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework International Council on Mining and Metals’ 10 Sustainable Development Principles Towards Sustainable Mining (championed by the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines) Responsible Gold Mining Principles It is worth noting that in EY’s list of Top 10 Business Risks and Opportunities for mining and metals in 2022, ESG emerged as number one.  More than 200 global mining executives were surveyed and named ESG, decarbonization and license to operate as the top three risks/opportunities facing their businesses over the next 12 months. With ESG at the top of the global business agenda and the intense scrutiny faced by the mining industry in particular, the challenges never cease for mining companies.

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Fernando Penarroyo - November 23, 2021

Investing in ESG is Good Business for Mining

New mining projects faces relative difficulty in attracting investments because of opposition by host communities and local governments brought about by potential mine accidents, transparency issues, and operations infringing on ancestral and agricultural lands. Regulators often impose huge taxes and environmental users’ fees on new projects, in addition to stiff penalties on erring mining companies involved in violation of safety and environmental laws and regulations. The industry is currently benefitting from the global objective of lowering carbon emissions to keep the rise in mean temperatures to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels in accordance with the 2015 Paris Agreement and 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which requires the deployment of renewable energy and efficient battery storage. The unprecedented demand for green metals like copper, nickel, lithium, and cobalt needed for energy transition and digital transformation has also paved the way for sustainable investments in mineral projects. To address these developments, mining companies are now including environmental, social and governance (ESG) and sustainability issues as part of their strategy to improve the reputation of the industry, acquire the consent of stakeholders to operate, and at the same time realize profits from their operations. According to the Ernst and Young 2022 Report on the Top 10 Business Risks and Opportunities for Mining and Metals, ESG tops the list of risks/opportunities facing mining companies over the next 12 months. The study indicates that shareholder expectations are impacted by numerous challenges, including the mining industry’s contribution to communities, economies, protection of heritage sites, and engagement with indigenous communities. Shareholders are also concerned with the industry’s role in prioritizing ethical supply chains, with diversity and inclusion also in the spotlight. Lenders and investors are also focusing on mining projects especially those that are vital to the energy transition but these projects need to have a good ESG strategy to become bankable. The formalization of the requirement for ESG criteria to be incorporated into the financial evaluations of companies started in August 2005 in a conference hosted by The United Nations Global Compact in Switzerland. The financial industry’s recommendations were compiled into a report entitled "Who Cares Wins.” The report came out with a conclusion that the "endorsing institutions are convinced that a better consideration of environmental, social and governance factors will ultimately contribute to stronger and more resilient investment markets, as well as contribute to the sustainable development of societies.” In the report, the financial industry called on all sectors of society and business to integrate ESG into their core activities, and investors should "reward well-managed companies" that embrace ESG. In 2006, a group of large institutional investors under the auspices of the United Nations, collaborated on a process to develop what has become the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). Developed "by investors, for investors," the six PRIs aim to contribute to a more sustainable global financial system and in the long term, the interests of the environment and society as a whole. Signatories to the PRI have grown to over 3,000 since its launching. The World Economic Forum (WEF) also published the Davos Manifesto, which set out a common code of ethics for business leaders. The manifesto was updated at the WEF's Annual Meeting in 2020, which built on the concept of 'stakeholder capitalism' first introduced in the initial manifesto. Stakeholder capitalism recognizes that long-term business value is only created when the interests of all stakeholders -- employees, shareholders, governments, the environment, and society as a whole, are served simultaneously. What is ESG? ESG is a set of standards or criteria for a company’s operations that investors now use to screen potential investments. While ESG is spoken about as a single concept, it is an amalgamation of three distinct but clearly overlapping disciplines -- environmental, social, and governance, each with their own knowledge base, areas of focus, and methodologies for approaching problems and solutions. Environmental criteria consider how a company performs as a steward of nature. The criteria can also be used in evaluating any environmental risks a company might face and how the company is managing those risks. They include a company’s energy use, waste, pollution, hazardous substances, mine waste/tailings, mine closure, natural resource conservation, treatment of animals, biodiversity, ecosystem services, water management, climate change, carbon footprint, and greenhouse gas emission. Social criteria, on the other hand, examine how a company manages business relationships with employees, suppliers, and customers. Social criteria also look at how the company deals with the communities where it operates and include human rights, land use, resettlement, vulnerable people, gender, diversity, labor practices, worker/community health and safety, security, artisanal miners, and mine closure/after use. Lastly, governance criteria deal with a company’s leadership, executive pay, audits, accounting systems, internal controls, and shareholder rights. It also includes legal compliance, ethics, anti-bribery and corruption, anti-money laundering, transparency, corporate governance, ethics, compliance, diversity, lobbying, and approach to taxation. Governance also covers how stockholders are allowed to vote on important issues. Investors want assurances that companies avoid conflicts of interest in their choice of board members and don't use political contributions to obtain unduly favorable treatment. ESG investing is also referred to as sustainable (or responsible) investing, impact investing, or socially responsible investing. Sustainable investing incorporates ESG criteria in the investment decisions of investors in companies, organizations, or funds. These decisions are based on the investor’s real or perceived understanding of the environmental and/or social impacts that will result from their investments in parallel with the expected financial returns. The purpose of directing funds towards investments that are seen as sustainable is to generate measurable environmental and social impacts in addition to financial returns. Governments and regulators are obviously supportive of ESG criteria. It is for this reason that ESG investing was identified as an investment megatrend. The Covid-19 pandemic also proved to be a positive catalyst for many investment managers to place their money in the accelerating global trend in sustainable investment. This emerging, new normal investment strategy is gaining momentum and the use of ESG criteria is set to be the standard in sustainable investments. Aside from proposing new standards and frameworks against which investments should be measured using ESG criteria, institutional investors and fund managers have also created investment products that enable investors to put their money into products that meet their ESG performance requirements. ESG-based investments can offer quick returns. Investors, notably millennials who are the major beneficiaries of the largest intergenerational transfer of an estimated wealth of $30 trillion, have shown interests in putting their money in EGS. ESG in Mining Mining has never been regarded as a “green” or sustainable investment, and this stigma has been the main reason for the difficulty in financing large-scale operations. Investor appetite has gone beyond balance sheets and now dwells in the realm of addressing the urgent need to preserve resources for future use of the coming generations. To responsible investors, mining may not be on the top of the list when considering an investment based on their ESG criteria. Recently, ESG has provided the opportunity for the industry to address the sustainability challenges by laying down a comprehensive framework that stakeholders can use as metrics when considering their involvement in a mining project. Before risking capital in a project, investors are now looking to consider the ethics, competitive advantage and culture of a mining organization to determine how the company can balance profits and the benefits to the environment. Mining finance transactions have evolved in recent years to integrate ESG and sustainability considerations. Now, investors, lenders and other stakeholders in the financial industry look into the ESG credentials of mining companies and very few transactions are done without conducting a due diligence of of ESG issues. Failure to address these issues will ultimately reduce access to funding while good ESG equates to more and cheaper funding. Mining investors, shareholders, as well as financiers across the spectrum —export credit agencies, development finance institutions and commercial lenders — are making sure that borrowers have the appropriate ESG strategy in place for full implementation. Investors are no longer passive in their sustainability due diligence of mining projects and exerting efforts to obtain more information from other available sources in addition to mandatory disclosures made under existing regulations and codes. Aside from traditional environmental and social reporting covenants, enhanced ESG and sustainability reporting are becoming standard provisions in loan documentation. Some investors and lenders are requiring that borrowers comply with the lenders’ own internal ESG policy and sustainability reporting requirements. Some mining finance transactions may also require the appointment of a lender to take on an ESG or sustainability coordinator role for the project. One particular organization, the World Gold Council, is lobbying for insurance providers to become more involved in the ESG movement by requiring mining companies to uphold ESG principles in order to be eligible for insurance policies. In some large mining initial public offerings, investor roadshows have become venues for investors to grill companies of their ESG initiatives in relation to relevant laws and internal reporting. On the demand side, cautious buying of mineral commodities is now a reality, as socially-responsible customers want to be kept informed about ESG issues of the supplier. End-users not only look into to the ethical production of minerals but also to the supply chain as well. Stakeholders like government and financial regulators, ESG rating agencies, civil society and advocacy groups, employees, and host communities are increasingly demanding transparency and performance on ESG issues more than ever. ESG factors have also led to a rise in shareholder activism, where existing investors use their shareholding to influence the mining company’s ESG performance. Non-compliance with ESG regulations and best practices will result in activist shareholder protests and class action suits against the parent companies of global mining groups particularly those operating in developing countries where environmental laws and governance rules are not properly implemented. ESG Strategy, Mineral Reporting Standards, and Sustainability Reporting Frameworks As pressure mounts from capital markets and the public, investments with a well-defined ESG strategy are outperforming their peers in the market and experiencing lower levels of volatility. According to a review of companies listed in the S&P 500 undertaken in 2019 by NASDAQ, companies that received high sustainability ratings "exhibited both higher returns and less risk.” On the other hand, companies with poor ESG ratings "showed the opposite results.” It is thus imperative if not good business practice for mining companies to engage in the preparation and implementation of a clear ESG strategy that will help address investor concerns and promote additional investments. The strategy containing the company’s corporate values and ESG priorities must fully explain how the company complies with both mandatory and voluntary obligations set out in the ESG company policy. The ESG strategy must also outline the company’s management plans and how it will assist in meeting its key performance indicators in relation to its sustainability goals. Lenders are also prescribing ESG principles to companies for them to receive green loans and sustainability-linked investment facilities, and incentivize the borrower to meet predetermined sustainability targets. Examples of predetermined sustainability targets for mining companies are increased energy efficiency and improved working or social conditions. Foremost among the inevitable risks that come with poor ESG management record is the loss of the social license to operate. Dissatisfied government and host communities will post obstacles to mine start or expansion by imposing onerous taxation regimes and regulatory obstacles to erring companies. Examples of ESG management failure range from repeated environmental violations to outright mining disasters resulting from failed tailings disposal systems and environmental pollution. Violation of land access agreements with local governments, landowners, indigenous peoples, and artisanal miners often lead to cancellation of consents and expose the mining companies to additional civil and criminal liability. Human rights violations, militarization, and poor workplace health and safety conditions will lead to disruption to operations brought about by labor unrest and even heightened insurgency in the mine area. Wasteful utilization of water and energy resources will not only diminish the company’s bottom line but will cause civil unrest in the communities because wastage will disrupt their livelihood. On the other hand, a well-managed and transparent ESG compliance system will bolster strong relationship with the stakeholders, easy access to financing, good customer relationship, and better management of scarce resources and raw materials, which will enhance the profitability of the mine operations. Good labor, health, and safety practices and human resources development also minimize employment turnover and enhance company loyalty. There are so many benefits and opportunities for companies with a strong ESG track record that in the long term will enable the company to operate in other mineralized sites because of good social and political risk management. Even in national mineral reporting codes that set the minimum public reporting standards of exploration results, mineral resources, and mineral reserves, the inclusion of ESG reporting has been gaining traction. Investors rely on these reporting codes before they proceed with their investment decisions. Prepared for the purpose of informing potential investors and their advisors on the mineral assets of a reporting company, these reporting codes are now including ESG issues as important contributors to modifying factors which can influence the commercial declaration of mineral reserves. ESG criteria play an important role in determining whether the mineral resources can be capable of being extracted economically. The investors are looking for evidence of how companies integrate ESG considerations into their businesses and this evidence needs to impact all aspects of the business, including geological processes and mining activities. Sustainability reporting is largely undertaken voluntarily by companies, regardless of their listing status on a stock exchange. Investors obtain ESG information about companies directly through engagement with companies or via information generated by ESG ratings agencies. The increasing influence of these rating agencies has resulted in ESG becoming a key factor in raising funds from capital markets. Rating agencies base their ratings from aggregated information directly obtained from the mining companies and rely solely on their review of publicly available information. However, there remain some questions on the ratings given by these agencies because of transparency issues on what they do with the information obtained and how they generate the ratings. In response to the growing desire to report on their ESG performance, companies have developed a number of reporting frameworks, the objective of which is to provide guidance and metrics to companies who wish to disclose their sustainability performance. Some of the more commonly used frameworks include the Global Reporting Initiative, Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, Carbon Disclosures Project, and Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures. Critics of sustainability reporting suggest that these reports have done little to improve the actual management of sustainability issues and instead are utilizing company resources that could be better spent managing sustainability issues on the ground. Gaps also remain between society's expectations of mining companies and their performance in respect of ESG issues. Companies need to be realistic about what they can deliver and build an ESG strategy that can manage stakeholders’ expectation. There is also a call by industry and investors to standardize sustainability reporting metrics. Conclusion To achieve a sustainable future, the global economy will rely to a great extent on resources and raw materials to be provided by the mining industry. To achieve this, companies need to take into account ESG and sustainability practices to attract risk capital and make mining projects bankable. The industry needs to apply ESG criteria from project inception to mine decommissioning, and throughout the supply chain to make its operations efficient, cleaner, and socially responsible. To preserve their license to operate and achieve sustainability, mining companies must also ensure that they have an ESG strategy in place to adhere to relevant laws, comply with regulatory codes, and satisfy all stakeholders. Fernando “Ronnie” S. Penarroyo specializes in Energy and Resources Law, Project Finance and Business Development. He may be contacted at 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   References Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Criteria, 05 March 2021, ESG Investing Will Speed-up the Energy Transition, 27 July 2021, Holman, Chris, ESG Investments in Mining, Azure Capital, 11 March 2021, Introduction to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Considerations for the Mining Sector: Reporting Obligations and Investor Expectations, Baker Mckenzie, Sankaran, Aparna, ESG with a Heightened Focus on Environment and Social Issues, Emerges as the Top Risk/Opportunity for the Mining Sector, Steele-Schober, Teresa, The Importance of ESG for Mineral Reporting, Taking ESG Seriously: The Crucial Role of Mining investors in the Energy Transition, White and Case, Walker, David, ESG Insights: What does ESG mean for the Mining industry?


Marcelle P. Villegas - September 01, 2021

When a volcano in Guatemala becomes a pizza kitchen

Pacaya volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in Guatemala and in Central America. It is 2,500 meters high and located 30 kilometers south of Guatemala City and close to Antigua. It was dormant for more than 70 years but started erupting again in 1961, and has been erupting often ever since. In March 2021, it had two strong explosions. After four months of being calm, it showed some activity again last August 5; however, it was a low-level activity. David Garcia, a 34-year-old accountant, saw the fiery mountainside as an opportunity to make “Pacaya Pizza”. While lava was oozing down the volcano, the glowing volcanic rocks fascinated tourists and locals.   Cooking pizza using volcanic rocks is a practice that Garcia first tried in 2013. This year when Pacaya was regularly erupting, he cooked pizza directly on the moving lava flows.


Patricia A. O. Bunye - August 31, 2021

Lifting the open-pit ban and using 'AI' in mining

In my previous column, I had mentioned that, in the Stakeholders’ Forum on Recent Policy Issuances Relating to Mining conducted by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) last June, hopes were raised that the ban on open pit mining would finally be lifted.  In response to a question in the open forum, MGB Director Wilfredo Moncano stated that the repealing clause of the draft Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Executive Order No. 130 (EO 130) would refer to Department Administrative Order 2017-10 (DAO 2017-10) on the ban on open pit mining.  Thus, while EO 130 itself does not explicitly refer to the lifting of the ban on open pit mining, the intent was to lift it since, in the proposed IRR, Section 11 referred to the repeal of the said DAO. Administrative Order No. 2021-25, or the IRR of EO 130, which was published on 08 August 2021, and which will take effect 15 days therefrom and registration with the Office of the National Administrative Register, did not repeal DAO 2017-10 or mention open pit mining at all, dashing any expectation that the ban will be lifted during this administration, notwithstanding the professed objectives of, among others: promoting direct investment for significant economic benefits of the country; ensuring adequate raw materials to support the various government projects, such as the Build, Build, Build Program and the mineral and allied industries; and promoting the development and increasing of employment opportunities in remote rural areas where there are mining activities in support to the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Program the government.  All of these laudable objectives would be met if only the long-stalled priority open pit mining projects were allowed to proceed to operate. On the positive side, with respect to the grant of new mineral agreements, upon effectivity of the IRR, all qualified applicants for a Mineral Agreement may now file their applications pursuant to Department Administrative Order No. 2010-21 and Republic Act No. 11032 (the Anti-Red Tape Act). Further, the permittee of an existing Exploration Permit with an approved Declaration of Mining Project Feasibility (DMPF) may apply for a Mineral Agreement and submit to the MGB Regional Office concerned within 90 days the mandatory requirements outlined in the IRR.  If complete, the MGB Central Office, 15 days from receipt of the Mineral Agreement application, shall review and shall endorse the same, to the DENR Secretary, for approval and issuance of the Mineral Agreement. It must be noted that new Mineral Agreements shall include a stipulation that they shall adhere to the existing revenue sharing scheme and to any future legislation pertaining to revenue sharing, taxes, fees, royalties, and charges. Previously, I also touched on how artifical intelligence (AI), which is defined as the ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings, such as learning from past experience, is creeping into many aspects of how we do our work.  Repetitive tasks, or those which may be done more efficiently are seen as better done by AI.  The mining industry,  where efficiency and productivity are paramount, has made profitable use of AI throughout the world. In Bagdad, Arizona, for example, data scientists, metallurgists, and engineers from Freeport-McMoRan created a custom AI model at a copper-ore concentrating mill in 2018 which was loaded with three years’ worth of operating data. It was programmed to look for operational tweaks to boost output. Thirteen monitors were placed in the control room to show readings from hundreds of performance sensors located around the mill.  Over time, the collected data were used to maximize copper production at a reasonable cost, with little new capital investment.  The team created, tested, and refined algorithms that would look into the data and recommend settings to maximize the copper output.  Their prediction model, called “TROI”, became so agile, that it was capable of issuing recommendations every 12 hours. Though not initially reliable, “TROI” was continuously improved by the team such that its recommendations became more plausible, to the point that 80% of its recommendations were accepted by the company’s metallurgists. The mill’s production substantially increased in just four quarters with its throughput exceeding 85,000 tons of ore per day, while its copper-recovery rate rose by 10% and its operations became more stable. In Canada, the government utilizes AI to promote clean, sustainable growth of its mining sector competitiveness by reducing costs and increasing productivity through automation. It recognizes that innovation may lead to increased efficiency and productivity, reduced costs, and improved environmental performance.  The Canadian government is now using machine learning to develop better models for the prediction of rock type and economical mineral deposit locations for extraction purposes without engaging in time and resource-intensive approaches.  It also uses AI to map Canada’s water and infrastructure, and to improve its ability to create geospatial data layers which can be used for emergency management, flood mapping, and change detection. In the Philippines, despite rapid technological developments, there are currently no government issuances governing the use of AI-related technologies in the mining industry.  Nevertheless, the DENR appears to recognize the impact that AI can make in preserving and protecting natural resources as it recently partnered with SMART and PLDT to protect peatlands in the Philippines using AI solutions. Outside the mining industry, other government agencies, notably the Department of Trade and Industry considers AI as a “nation defining capability” as it created an AI Roadmap to provide an actionable guide on how to “harness AI’s potential to uplift Filipinos, our local industries, and our economy.” It is geared towards preparing the nation to maximize the benefits of employing AI technologies.   The Philippines is supposedly among the first 50 countries in the world to have a national strategy and policy on AI. Such a policy is touted to increase the Philippines’ gross domestic product by 12% by 2030 as the roadmap can establish the Philippines as an “AI Center for Excellence in the region” and be a “hub for data processing” which can provide high-value data analytics and AI services to the world. The trouble with such projections and roadmaps is that, unless they are acted upon, and until we stop shooting ourselves in the foot, they remain aspirational.  We have roadmaps for practically every industry, yet we have spent decades going around in circles instead.  Back in 2004, a Mineral Action Plan for the revitalization of the mining industry had already been put in place to implement Executive Order 270 (The National Policy Agenda on Revitalizing Mining in the Philippines). The DENR was to be the lead agency in crafting and implementing a strategic plan, in consultation with the other concerned agencies, such as, but not limited to, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Finance, the National Economic Development Authority, the National Anti-Poverty Commission, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, the mining industry and civil society. Despite the fantastic roadmap laid out, and three administrations later, we all sadly know what followed next: the saga of Executive Order 49 and all the other monkey wrenches thrown in, which prevented the approval of new mining agreements and projects from proceeding for many years.  While this may be oversimplifying all the myriad challenges the mining industry has faced, instead of trying to find new solutions to age-old problems, it may be worth taking a second look at prescriptions that may have been there all along.  Unfortunately, rare is the administration that considers and implements the plans and strategies of the previous ones, no matter how well thought out, for the simple reason that it is ‘contra-partido’ or someone else’s idea, which is why our country has not fared as well as others in the execution of long-term strategic plans.  The issuance of Administrative Order No. 2021-25 is undoubtedly a welcome development, but the road (though paved with good intentions) is still littered with obstacles, many of our own making.  As we soldier on, I cannot help but wonder whether it is AI that can help humans truly learn from past experiences by warning us against committing the same mistakes and allowing us to make better decisions, or humans should finally just face up to the consequences of our folly.  


Fernando Penarroyo - August 31, 2021

A Shot in the Arm for Philippine Mining

During the early stages of the pandemic, the performance of the mineral industry was seriously dictated by the slowdown of economic activities, lethargic world metal prices, and limited and hampered mining operations. The mining index however, made a turnaround by the end of 2020 and has recovered by an astonishing US$636 billion thanks to a boom in spending brought about by the current green energy and digital transition, and unprecedented infrastructure-focused stimulus packages initiated by many governments to lift their economies. As the global economy slowly recovers, prices for energy and metals are helping big commodity producers and exporters. Big miners, awash with cash from record-high metals prices and forced to adapt operational efficiencies during the pandemic, are returning billions of dollars to shareholders through dividends and buybacks. Bullish investor sentiment has been a critical driver of surging metal prices as the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines sees major economies emerge from lockdown restrictions. Mining financing hit an eight-year high in 2020. Dawn of a Super-cycle? The rapid expansion of a global middle class continue to fuel the demand for coal, copper and iron ore. While the mining and refining sectors for ‘traditional’ base metals are well established, lithium and cobalt mining will develop quickly in the coming years. Copper, nickel, tin, aluminium and rare earths which, together with lithium and cobalt, are expected to see a demand boom amidst the battery revolution. In the case of copper, some major banks are already predicting a super-cycle, i.e., a sustained spell of abnormally strong demand growth that producers struggle to match, sparking a rally in prices that can last decades. Previous copper rallies reveal a pattern of broad-based growth, industrialization, and new technologies that can help drive demand and prices. As copper is set to play a key role in electricity infrastructure, electric vehicles (EV) including hybrids and renewables fuel additional demand. The copper price hit a record high in May 2021 ($10,476 a tonne) and trading house Trafigura Group, Goldman Sachs, and Bank of America expect the metal to extend its recent gains. Market watchers and analysts, however, have debated how long the boom will last. On the other hand, the EV Metal Index, which tracks the value of battery metals in newly registered passenger EVs around the world, came in at $477 million in April, an increase of 326% over the same month last year and bringing the year-to-date total to $2.03 billion. Lithium prices are averaging $10,800 so far in 2021 versus over $17,000 in 2018. Fitch Solutions Country Risk & Industry Research expects lithium consumption growth to outpace current supply developments. Demand is to be boosted by strong government support to promote EVs and large-scale energy storage systems. Low supply means that prices will remain high in the short term. Mining as a Contributor to a Battered Economy The Philippines is one of the countries that has a high vulnerability to Covid-19 as it continues to struggle to contain the Covid-19 pandemic and normalize economic activity. The economy contracted last year by 9.6% while GDP shrank by 3.9% in the first quarter this year. While the economy registered 11.8% growth in the second quarter, the country is currently battling the latest surge of Covid-19 cases under the more infectious Delta variant. With the reimposition of the enhanced community quarantine in the national capital region, renewed mobility restrictions, and higher petroleum prices, full economic recovery is expected to be delayed further. According to a report from the Asian Development Bank, public spending on infrastructure and social assistance, better progress in the country’s vaccination drive, and a steady recovery in the global economy will underpin the growth of the Philippine economy this year and the next. Despite the pandemic, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) reported that the metallic mineral production value ended 2020 on a positive note with a 1.13% gain from ₱130.74 billion in 2019 to ₱132.21 billion, a ₱1.47 billion increase. The gains were driven mainly by nickel demand from China and high gold prices. The MGB further reported that: Mining industry contributed ₱102.3 billion to the GDP in 2020 comprising 0.76% and ₱25.52 billion from national and local taxes, fees and royalties; Mining and quarrying activities generated 184,000 jobs and around ₱25.71 billion was committed for Social Development and Management Program to host communities; Metallic mineral production was at ₱132.69 billion; and Total value of minerals, mineral products, and non-metallic mineral manufacture exported was at US$5.2 billion. The domestic nickel industry also benefitted as Indonesia, the world’s biggest nickel producer, continues to impose an export ban on the metal. The Philippines, the world’s number two producer, stepped in to fill the demand from China, exporting 333,962 tonnes in 2020. Government policy changes and upbeat commodity prices boosted mining and oil stocks in the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE). The sector closed 17.5% higher by the end of 2020, making it one of the biggest gainers for the year. According to the Philippine Statistics Office (PSO), the government expects an increase in earnings from excise tax collections. The PSO attributes this to the Tax Reform for Acceleration of Inclusion (TRAIN) Act passed in 2017, which doubled excise taxes on minerals, mineral products and quarry resources from 2% to 4%. Meanwhile, the Department of Finance (DOF) is proposing further amendments to fiscal provisions in mining laws that will allow for the rationalization of existing revenue-and benefit-sharing schemes and incentives given to companies to ensure that the country benefits from mineral resources. Government’s New Policies Expected to Give Mining a Boost President Rodrigo Duterte’s earlier policies on mining have caused anxiety in the industry. At the start of his administration, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued  MO 2016-01 on 08 July 2016, mandating the audit of all operating mines and declaring a moratorium on new mining projects, covering the environmental, economic, social, legal, and technical aspects of the mining operations. In addition, DAO 2017-10, issued on 27 April 2017, banned the open pit mining method for gold, silver, copper, and complex ores describing open-pit mines as “perpetual liabilities, causing adverse impacts to the environment, particularly due to the generation of acidic and/or heavy metal-laden water, erosion of mine waste dumps and/or vulnerability of tailings dams to geological hazards.” What hit the industry real hard was when former DENR Secretary Regina Paz Lopez ordered the closure of twenty-eight (28) operating mines and the cancellation of seventy-five (75) Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSA) as they allegedly encroached on watersheds and destroyed marine ecosystems. These development dampened investor interests in the local industry. Lately however, the Philippine government seemed to be considering the mining industry as part of its economic recovery plans in light of the havoc created by the pandemic. Various policies and administrative actions, notably the lifting of the moratorium on new mining agreements and the favorable resolution of an FTAA renewal, were implemented with the view of attracting more mining investments. Lifting the moratorium on new mining agreements The industry was given a boost when President Duterte issued Executive Order (EO) No. 130 on 14 April 2021, which lifted the nine-year moratorium on mineral agreements. EO 130 amended Section 4 of EO No. 79, series of 2012 that prohibits the grant of mineral agreements “until a new legislation rationalizing existing revenue sharing schemes and mechanisms shall have taken effect”. The MGB has noted an increase in mining applications, especially coming from inactive mining companies and exploration permittees that have scaled down their operations in the last few years. Three months after the issuance of EO 130, the MGB approved 26 out of 36 applications for new non-metallic mining operations. In April this year, 36 new metallic and non-metallic mines have been identified as priority in terms of the processing of applications. The MGB will also be prioritizing 65 applications that are likely to be granted with MPSAs. These mining applications were accepted and processed and the MPSAs will be issued once EO 130’s implementing rules and regulations (IRR) take effect. According to the DOF during the Philippine-Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative National Conference 2021, the lifting of the moratorium on new mining projects is expected to boost mineral production by around ₱15 billion every year until 2023, and an additional ₱43 billion annually until 2027. Potential new entrants will increase exports by $1 billion to $2 billion every year, as well as employ as many as 1.3 times more workers. The DOF is expected to collect an additional ₱34 billion in taxes and fees. In the same conference, Rep. Joey Salceda, Chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means, however, identified key deficiencies in the country’s extractive industry governance framework which could be resolved by a “coherent tax regime.” He noted that in EO 130, neither Congress nor the DOF is given a specific role in the taxation process. Salceda also observed that EO 130 delegated some powers that were not supported by law, including the power of the DENR to negotiate tax agreements with mining applicants. He recommended that the DOF, which has the experience in financial management, negotiate revenue sharing agreements on the government’s behalf.  Resolution of OceanaGold FTAA Renewal Another recent bright spot for the industry was the much-awaited government’s renewal of the Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement ("FTAA") of OceanaGold Corporation’s Didipio operations. The FTAA was renewed for an additional 25-year period on substantially the same terms and conditions but included certain modifications: The equivalent of an additional 1.5% of gross revenue shall be allocated to community development in the form of increased contributions to communities in the region and provincial development projects in addition to the existing fund for Social Development and Management Program provided to the host and neighboring communities. One percent (1.0% ) will be allocated to community development for additional communities and half-percent (0.5%) to the host provinces of Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino; Net Smelter Return will be reclassified as an allowable deduction and shared 60%/40% rather than wholly included in government share; At least 10% of the common shares in OceanaGold Philippines Inc. ("OGPI"), the Company's Philippine operating subsidiary and holder of the FTAA, shall be listed at the Philippine Stock Exchange within the next three years; OGPI shall offer to the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas  for the latter to buy not less than 25% of OGPI’s annual gold doré production at fair market price and mutually agreed upon terms; and OGPI's principal office shall be transferred to the host province within the next two years from execution of the renewal agreement on 19 June 2019. OGPI plans a staged restart of operations with milling to recommence utilizing stockpiled ore approximately 19 million tonnes. It also aims to achieve full underground production capacity within twelve months. Once fully ramped-up, OGPI expects Didipio to produce approximately 10,000 gold ounces and 1,000 tonnes of copper per month. The resumption of Didipio’s mine operations will give direct employment to about 1,800 people and indirect employment for another 2,000 to 3,000 employees. Addressing the open pit mining ban The issuance of EO 130 sparked some hope in the industry that President Duterte will give the go-signal to the DENR to lift the ban on open-pit mining, which has been a contentious issue among miners, host communities, local government units, and environmental advocates. Among the salient features of the DENR-drafted EO 130 IRR was the provision lifting the ban on the open-pit mining method. Open pit mines are often used in mining near-surface metallic or non-metallic deposits and more sparingly in coal and other bedded deposits. Open pit mining is an internationally accepted method done in many countries and repeatedly proven to be safe for miners, the community and the environment.  While the environmental footprint may be visibly large, open pit mines can be successfully rehabilitated and converted into other land uses like agriculture, forestry, tourism, and recently as sites for renewables. For shallow ore deposits, such as nickel, iron, coal, and copper, open pit mining is the only economically viable method extraction. An open pit mining ban will also have adverse impacts on our energy security, as coal mining is presently done in the country only through open pit mines. In the meantime, the definition of open pit mining method as per DAO No. 2017-10 vis a vis other surface mining methods was clarified  by the MGB through the issuance of MC 2019-08 on 10 December 2019. Open pit mining method is the process of mining by means of a surface pit excavated using one or more horizontal benches. The MC defined and clarified that open cast mining, strip mining, and quarrying are not considered as open pit mining methods. PMRC 2020 Approval and CRIRSCO Membership to Boost Investor Confidence The ongoing revisions to the Philippine Mineral Reporting Code for Reporting of Exploration Results, Mineral Resources and Ore Reserves (“PMRC”) is considered auspicious by the industry as investors are expected to take a look at the Philippines following the lifting of the nine-year moratorium on new mining projects. The PMRC was created on 08 August 2007 to set out the standards, recommendations and guidelines for public reporting of exploration results, mineral resources and ore reserves, as may be required as a listed company or when applying for listing with the PSE. The PMRC is also currently used as a reporting standard by the DENR/MGB in technical submissions by mining companies under DAO 2010-09, “Providing for the Classification and Reporting Standards of Explorations Results, Mineral Resources and Ore Reserves.” Last 26 February 2019, the PMRC Committee (PMRCC) applied for membership in the Committee for Mineral Reserves International Reporting Standards (CRIRSCO), the committee of all internationally recognized national reporting organizations. When implemented in 2008, PMRC was compatible with the Australian Joint Ore Reserve Code of 2004 and CRIRSCO Template 2006.  As a condition for PMRCC’s acceptance under the Memorandum of Understanding dated 27 February 2019, there is a need to revise the 2007 PMRC to make it compatible with the current 2019 CRIRSCO template. The PMRCC Standards Sub-Committee (StandCom) completed the current draft of PMRC Edition 2020 after CRIRSCO finished its detailed review on 10 October 2020. The PMRCC submitted the draft to the PSE on 30 October 2020 that was followed by a public comment period from 04 to 16 March 2021. The PMRCC conducted virtual public consultations on the drafts on 11 June and 18 November 2020. The PSE Board approved the draft on 25 March 2021 with additional revisions on sustainability: such as mitigation and remediation plans to solve environmental, social, and health and safety impacts; and the inclusion of a consent form to indicate the accredited competent person agrees to the public disclosure of the report. The PSE endorsed the revised draft to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) which is currently under deliberation. Once the PMRC has been upgraded to the 2019 CRIRSCO Template and approved by the PSE and SEC, the PMRCC is expected to be accepted as a CRIRSCO member. The sooner the PSE and SEC approve the submitted draft, the better for the mining industry so that it will be at par with global reporting standards to professionalize the industry and attract investors. Meanwhile, the PMRC StandCom is currently reviewing the draft IRR of PMRC 2020, which is targeted for completion in 2021 and will be subsequently submitted to the PSE anew for endorsement and approval. Offshore Mining Permits Another area of interest for possible investments is offshore mining. MGB MC 2016-05 covers the conduct of offshore mining within the country’s territorial sea and exclusive economic zone and extended continental shelf, as established under Parts V and VI, respectively, of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Under MGB MC 2016-05, offshore mining operations shall be conducted in a manner that will not adversely affect biodiversity, safety of sea navigation, and other marine activities. The Offshore Mining Chamber of the Philippines (OMCP) announced that it received numerous expressions of interest in offshore mining following the issuance of EO 130. The OMCP urged the MGB to approve offshore mining tenement applications only from qualified offshore mining companies with adequate capital, proven technical expertise and demonstrated capability to engage and deploy offshore equipment for exploration, seabed scientific research, and sea bottom profiling. OMCP further recommended that the MGB should start a review of mine tenement systems and processes, with a view towards terminating inactive claims for offshore mining. Dealing with Mining Industry Risks Uncertainty concerning the administration, interpretation, or enforcement of existing laws and regulations on environment, taxes, land use, infrastructure, socio-economic agreements, and labor remain to be the biggest investment barriers to mining investments according to the Fraser Institute Annual Survey of Mining Companies 2020. Companies are also more exposed now to political risks and security issues. In addition to the traditional risk factors, the mining industry faces a wider range of challenges such as climate change, new technologies, and economic uncertainties. The economic crisis caused by the pandemic that heightened fiscal and external imbalances in many emerging markets has led host governments to review existing mining contracts and legislations, and introduce new taxes and royalties to replace lost revenues. Resource nationalism has become much more sophisticated and complex in the forms it takes, not purely driven by nationalistic policies but by wider political, economic, social and environmental drivers. The Philippine government is fully aware that existing mineral agreements entail that some deposits can only be extracted through open pit mining given the available data already known to both regulators and developers. An open pit mining ban would in effect cause these resources to be stranded and mineral agreements impaired if the ban is continuously imposed. The government must put in place stable policies if it wants the industry to move forward by expeditiously lifting the open-pit mining ban and existing suspension orders. The industry is keenly awaiting for a favorable outcome on these issues. Conclusion Recent policy initiatives by the government are laudable to erase policy uncertainties that can be extremely damaging to both investors and the host country, and hamper the successful development of mineral endowments.  The key challenge is to bring back investors’ confidence to the mining industry that will assure appropriate profit to investors, protect our natural resources, and provide other long-term benefits to the Filipinos. Fernando “Ronnie” S. Penarroyo specializes in Energy and Resources Law, Project Finance and Business Development. He may be contacted at 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   References Annual Survey of Mining Companies, 2020, Fraser Institute, 23 February 2021, Are Copper Prices in a Supercycle? A 120-Year Perspective,, 19 July 2021, COVID-19 Impact & Recovery: Metals & Mining, S&P Global Market Intelligence, EO 130 Spurs Growth of Offshore Mining, Manila Standard, June 13, 2021, EV Metal Index Quadruples Year-on-year as Lithium, Nickel Prices Rally,, 19 July 2021, Miraflor, Madelaine B., 26 New Non-metallic Mines Cleared to Operate, Manila Bulletin 19 July 2021, Oceanagold Advises Didipio FTAA Renewal and Provides Operations Update, 14 July 2021, Philippine Economy Seen Recovering in 2021, with Stronger Growth in 2022 - ADB, 28 April 2021, Solutions to Mining Industry Risk Challenges, Marsh,


George Bujtor, Marcelle Villegas - August 21, 2021

How Indonesia Beat the Philippines to Become the World’s Undisputed Nickel Pig Iron (NPI) Producer (and Likely to Replicate this as a Battery Feedstock Supplier)

When Indonesia announced the reimposition of their nickel export ban in 2019, why were many key players in the Philippine mining industry optimistic about this? Was their optimism based on the belief that Indonesia is out of the game due to their nickel export ban? Did the Philippines really benefit from Indonesia’s export ban on laterite nickel ores? What actually happened is that during the years when Indonesia halted their laterite nickel ore exports to the world, outsiders still got their nickel supply from Indonesia by investing in the country, thus giving them internal access to Indonesia’s nickel. This investment strategy brought a win-win situation to both Indonesia and their foreign investors. This is an angle of the Indonesian nickel export ban story which is disadvantageous to the Philippine nickel industry. But are the industry players in the Philippines aware of this? To give an in-depth analysis on what really happened to the Philippine nickel industry while Indonesia was implementing their nickel export ban, top Australian mining executive and CEO of Electric Metals Limited, George Bujtor shares his thorough research about the matter.  For background, George Bujtor has extensive work experience in technical, financial and commercial aspects of mining operations. He is one of the authors of a paper titled “A Guide to the Understanding of Ore Reserves Estimation”.[1] The paper was published by the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy in March 1982 and was the basis for the development of the JORC Mineral Code used worldwide today. This study is a remarkable peer-reviewed journal and significant reference of most international mining studies and academic research in relation to JORC studies and Mineral Reporting Code.[2] His career is notable as past General Manager and Managing Director during his 22 years in Rio Tinto, Australia, and as former CEO of Aldoga Aluminum, Australia. On his first years in the Philippines, he developed the Berong Nickel mines in Palawan as CEO of Berong Nickel Corporation. Following this, he became the CEO of Carmen Copper Corporation/Atlas Mining where he successfully raised over US$200M in bond issue for the expansion of the mine and processing operations.   He held numerous Board positions and is a Fellow of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, and is a Competent Person as defined by the JORC & NI 43-101 codes (Australasian Joint Ore Reserves Committee).   Here’s an extensive report, analysis and forecast by George Bujtor about the current situation of the Philippine nickel industry.


Patricia A. O. Bunye - June 29, 2021

What does "going back to work" look like in Mining?

In Issue 4 of Philippine Resources, I recapped how much of my 2020 was spent on Zoom calls and webinars.  A year and a half into the pandemic, and after 15 months of working from home, the situation has not changed, and it looks like this will be our way of life for some time to come. Major online events were conducted recently by the Department of Environment & Natural Resources (DENR) and Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB). First was the Consultative Meeting on May 19 on the Implementing Rules and Regulations on Executive Order No. 130, with Day 1 being attended by mining companies and Day 2 by NGOs and the academe.  Second was the MGB’s Stakeholders’ Forum on Recent Policy Issuances Relating to Mining, also held over two days on June 8 and 9. The introduction to the Consultative Meeting was an opportunity to review the issuances of the DENR and MGB from 2015 to 2020, the more significant of which were discussed in greater detail in the MGB’s Stakeholders’ Forum. In the open forum that followed the Consultative Meeting, MGB Director Wilfredo Moncano confirmed that, although EO 130 does not explicitly refer to the lifting of the ban on open pit mining, the intent is to lift it since Section 11 or the repealing clause of the its proposed IRR explicitly refers to Department Administrative Order 2017-10 on the ban on open pit mining. The MGB’s Stakeholders’ Forum offered a deeper dive into the following issuances, with the formal presentations being followed by Q&As with the participants both on Zoom and Facebook: Mining Tenements: MGB Memorandum Circular No. 2019-001 (Clarificatory Guidelines on the Industrial Sand and Gravel Permit) MGB Memorandum Circular No. 19-08 (Clarification on the Definition of the Open Pit Mining Method as per DAO No. 2017-10 and other Surface Mining Methods) MGB Memorandum Circular No. 20-010 (Harmonizing the Mining Production Capacity Threshold or Limit of a Mining Permit/Contract and the Pertinent Environmental Compliance Certificate) DENR Administrative Order (Guidelines on the Automatic Renewal of the Exploration Period and the Timely Declaration of the Mining Project Feasibility under the EP, MPSA, FTAA, and Similar Mining Tenements) [For Publication, as this column was being written] Environmental Protection MGB Memorandum Order No. 20-01: Care and Maintenance Program for Mining Projects MGB Memorandum Circular No. 2020-04 (Clarificatory Guidelines for the Establishment of the Contingent Liability and Rehabilitation Fund for Dredging Projects/Activities pursuant to DPWH-DENR-DILG-DOTR Joint Memorandum Circular No. 1, Series of 2019) Online Filings Memorandum Order No. 2020-007 (Policy on Online Filing of Application and Payment) Enforcement MGB Memorandum Circular No. 2019-002 (Supplemental Guidelines to MGB Memorandum Circular No. 2018-01) MGB Memorandum No. 2018-01 (Guidelines in the Conduct of Apprehension, Seizure, Confiscation and Disposition of illegally sourced minerals/mineral products and by-products, tools, conveyances and equipment used) Appeals MGB Memorandum Circular No. 2019-006 (Clarificatory Guidelines on the Rules of Appeal) Dredging & Offshore Mining MGB Memorandum Circular No. 2019-07 (Clarificatory Guidelines on Section 5.1.2.c of DPWH-DENR-DILG-DOTr JMC No. 2019-01) MGB Memorandum Circular No. 2020-008 (Revised Guidelines on Offshore Mining - Revision to MGB Memorandum Circular 2016-05 "Guidelines on Offshore Mining") While the aforementioned webinars with the DENR/MGB are illustrative of government’s engagement and cooperation with its stakeholders, on the same day, June 9, in another time zone, the World Association of Mining Lawyers (WAOML) was conducting a webinar on the international arbitration of mining disputes against governments. The global panel described an upward trend in mining arbitration against governments and government entities, i.e., since 1990, there have been around 100 recorded mining arbitration cases against governments, 73 of which have been brought in the last 10 years.  Within the last few days before the WAOML webinar, 4 new ones were brought against the governments of Colombia, Republic of the Congo, Cameroon and Turkey. International arbitration against governments are usually resorted to when mining projects, which are typically long-term and complex, and depend on a stable legal, fiscal and political environment, experience major shifts such as resource nationalism, and/or unexpected changes in financial/tax/royalty regimes. in 40% of the cases that have been brought, the mine could not start operating, and there was government action or inaction that led to the investment dispute.  in more than half of the cases, the projects were operating, but the mine had to close down, because the license was not renewed or the investor lost control because of an expropriation. Interestingly, Latin America leads the way with the most number of international mining arbitration cases filed, with Asia and Africa following. From the perspective of the mining companies that file the cases, international arbitration is just one tool in their arsenal, and often it is, as expressed by one speaker, an ‘absolute last resort’ because, once the arbitration is instituted, it will inevitably lead to the breakdown of the relationships that have been built.  It will also take time and resources to complete, and even assuming that the company obtains the desired award, it still needs to have the award enforced. On the lighter and brighter side, the International Women in Mining (WIM) Alliance, which I have written about previously, recently held the first of new series of global calls via Zoom which was attended by the counterpart organizations of Diwata-Women in Resource Development from just about every corner of the globe.  It was gratifying to hear how diverse yet similar our experiences are, and how much common ground there is for us to start from.  This significant as the Alliance is about aligning the interests of these international women’s mining groups through multilateral, mutually beneficial relationships and leveraging their collective strength to pursue a common agenda, without integration, control or affiliation.  For me, the fact that, through technology, it is so much easier now to reach out to other ‘sisters  in mining’ is a plus in itself.  Pre-pandemic, it would have taken attendance in an international conference to meet even a quarter of this group. With technology allowing me to be as, if not more, productive, than being at my office, am I looking forward to going back? Even with more people being vaccinated, the discussion is less about ‘going back to work’ than what ‘going back to work’ will look like, i.e., how to implement a hybrid workplace.  For the mining industry, which certainly is not predominated by desk-bound jobs, there is already a trend worldwide to see how certain repetitive tasks can be automated versus those which need analytical skills, and therefore a demand for individuals with such capabilities.  Part of this shift is for artificial intelligence, machine learning and process-automation experts to oversee new ways of working.  In this regard, the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report identifies leadership and social influence as a main focus of mining companies’ reskilling or upskilling programs.  In any industry, empathy is vital to mitigating the potential negative impact of remote working on mental health, and managers need superior communication skills to manage isolated teams.  Thoughts to further ponder on in a future column!


Fernando Penarroyo - June 08, 2021

Renewables Can Make Mining a Sustainable Industry

There is no doubt that public perception of mining is that of a dirty, hazardous, and ecologically-destructive industry. Sustainable mining is non-existent to critics because of the industry’s perceived large carbon footprint brought about by deforestation and large contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. By its very nature, mining is also energy-intensive starting with the development and production processes requiring fuel for heavy equipment and machinery, up to the processing stage where metallurgical plants consume a huge amount of electricity. Energy expenses constitute approximately 30 percent of cash operating costs as majority of mining operations continue to rely on fossil fuel-based grid power or off-grid diesel-generated power. While accounting for up to 11% of global energy consumption, the industry is responsible for 22% of global industrial greenhouse gas emissions. Despite the pandemic, the mining index has now recovered by an astonishing US$636 billion thanks to a boom in spending brought about by the current green and digital transition, and unprecedented infrastructure-focused stimulus packages initiated by many governments. The Philippines also benefitted from this development. According to a report by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, metallic mineral production value ended 2020 on a positive note with a 1.13% gain from PhP130.74 billion in 2019 to PhP132.21 billion, a PhP1.47 billion increase. As mining operations need a consistent and reliable source of power, and renewables becoming a mainstream energy source, mining companies have a material opportunity to lower costs and improve safety, reliability, and sustainability. The regulatory and risk mitigation landscape is also changing with many governments enacting legislation to bring their economies in accordance with the 21st Conference of the Parties to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or Paris Agreement goals of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and maintaining planetary warming below 2°C of preindustrial levels. The industry and its investors need to urgently promote less carbon-intensive energy consumption to address future pressures on the climate in order for the public and stakeholders to be more receptive and appreciative of the contributions of mining. This article discusses how mining and innovative renewable energy technologies can combine to achieve the transition to a more sustainable energy system. Attracting Investors’ Appetite Back to the Mining Industry While demand for renewable energy continues to grow, investors’ and lenders’ appetite in mining is shrinking. The sector is facing a market that is smaller, pricier, and subject to an increasing regulatory oversight to help manage its exposure to environmental and social risks. On the other hand, the cost of producing renewable energy has dropped dramatically making it more competitive with fossil fuels with technological innovation and huge investments from China pushing down the its costs. The opportunity lies in companies focusing on clean metal production and investors supporting cleaner and greener minerals extraction. While mining companies see the opportunity, they are in a catch-22 situation. According to an Ernst and Young report, environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues are getting in the way of the green transition because how the needed minerals are produced is under more scrutiny  from governments, investors and end consumers. Institutional investors have pledged to completely remove fossil fuels from their portfolios by 2030 and banks have priced their loan products in correlation to the environmental risks of the borrower. BloombergNEF confirms the change in investor perspective most notably with the move by BlackRock – the world’s largest asset manager with $7.4tn on its books – to divest from companies not aligned with the policy goals of the low-carbon energy transition. Investors, governments and top companies like Amazon to JPMorgan Chase are injecting billions of dollars into sustainable projects. In addition, corporate directors are required to ensure compliance with all applicable environmental laws and regulation and consumers are demanding sustainable business practices, persuading hundreds of major companies to issue net zero emissions commitments. Clients of institutional investors are also pushing fund managers to create sustainability-focused portfolios and banks are requiring more rigorous covenant packages in their loan agreements with extractive industry businesses. Mining companies have no choice but to engage in decarbonization in order to access capital. How Renewable Energy is Transforming the Mining Industry Minerals are critical to the clean, green, and digital transition. The growth of renewable energy is heavily reliant on commodities like copper, gold, lithium, cobalt which are used in the manufacture of new technologies that could one day replace fossil fuels in the global energy mix. Copper supplies, for example, need to increase by as much as six percent (6%) per year to meet the goals laid out in the Paris Agreement. Copper is needed for wind farms, solar panels and electric vehicles, and generally essential to all power generation infrastructure. Solar power, expected by the International Renewable Energy Agency to reach 8,519 GW of capacity worldwide by 2050, relies on the supply of aluminium, copper and certain rare earth elements (including indium and cadmium) to produce photovoltaic (PV) panels. Wind turbines are made from steel and is therefore dependent on the production of iron. Certain rare-earth elements such as neodymium are needed for the magnets used inside turbine generators, as well as electric vehicle (EV) technology. Zinc and titanium are used mostly for wind and geothermal energy. Metals are also used in high tech devices like aircraft engines, rockets, and other military equipment, hence, the label of critical minerals. Driven by the demand for EV batteries and renewable energy infrastructure in battery storage, the need for lithium, graphite, nickel, cobalt, platinum-group and rare earth elements is primed to explode. The World Bank predicts that production of these minerals could increase nearly five hundred percent (500%) by 2050. For cobalt, lithium, and nickel, projected demand is greater than known reserves. As the demand for renewables continues to grow, the mining industry indeed faces a bright future in becoming a recognized vital contributor to the clean energy transition. With advancements in renewable energy technology and the commitment of some key industry players, there are many benefits for mining companies to switch to renewables. In addition to the financial botomline, renewables also offer important social, health, safety, and environmental benefits that are harder to quantify, which can potentially include: Stability in power price, increased energy security, and reduced reliance on fossil fuels that are vulnerable to global price fluctuations - Solar and wind facilities have high upfront costs to build but input costs drop to near-zero when operational. The cost of battery production is also predicted to halve in the next decade, making large-scale energy storage capable of powering a mine’s operations even in the absence of a consistent supply; Sustainable development support - Satisfaction of environmental and social criteria used to measure the sustainability and green credentials of a given project will be a pre-requisite for off-takers, investors, and lenders. Debt and capital markets will shift towards sustainable and green investments; Lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduced carbon liabilities; Energy efficiency in mine sites by synchronizing peak load with cheaper renewable energy sources, thus bringing down the overall cost of mining operations and maintenance; and Additional revenue from selling excess generation capacity and providing ancillary services to grid operators. RE Projects at Minesites Around the World Realizing the benefits from efficient energy management systems, some miners are now driving down their energy costs by up to 25% in existing operations and 50% in new mines. Renewables, whose levelized costs have achieved parity with traditional fossil fuels, is a major component. These developments in the mining sector are part of a larger, global trend toward greater procurement of renewables by corporations. A report by Fitch Solutions Macro Research revealed that around 1 GW of renewables was already built at mining sites across the world, and that another 1 GW is in the pipeline. Solar PV and wind are leading the way in installed renewables generation among mining companies, with thirty percent (37%) and fifty-nine percent (59%) share in 2017 respectively. By one estimate, investment in renewables just for mining will reach nearly US$4 billion by 2022, which represents more than a tenfold increase from a decade before. Several large mining companies have been integrating renewables at progressively higher ratios, and all four of the world’s biggest miners plan to source more of their energy needs from renewables. Table No. 1. Renewable Energy Projects at Minesites Around the World Mining Company Renewable Energy Project Anglo American Signed a deal to run its Quellaveco copper mine in Peru 100% on renewables, effectively allowing the miner to deliver on its promise of powering all of its Latin American operations by green energy by 2022. The facility is expected to provide 150 MW for an initial eight-year period to Anglo’s Quellaveco, located in the Moquegua region.   Also inked a 15-year contract in Brazil to buy 70 MW of solar power from Atlas Renewable Energy as of 2022 for its iron ore operation in Minas Gerais. Rio Tinto Announced that it would reduce the annual carbon footprint associated with its Kennecott Utah copper mine by as much as 65%, by purchasing renewable energy certificates and permanently shutting its coal power plant. The mine’s electricity needs will now be supplied with 1.5 million megawatt hours (MWh) of renewable energy certificates supplied by energy company Rocky Mountain Power, primarily sourced from its renewables portfolio in Utah and including wind power from Wyoming.   Supported a 9MW wind farm in the Arctic near its mine.   Added an additional 5MW of solar panels, and advanced battery storage, to an existing solar/diesel microgrid to further decrease diesel use at a bauxite mine. Gold Fields Announced plans to predominantly operate its Agnew gold mine in Western Australia (WA) using renewable energy in partnership with global energy group EDL and involving an AUD112m ($77.59m) investment in an energy microgrid combining wind, solar, gas and battery storage.   In February 2019, Aggreko was contracted to create a hybrid solar-battery generation system to power the Granny Smith mine. The hybrid system will be integrated with the 24.2MW already generated by the natural gas engine station. Antofagasta Signed an agreement in June 2018 with utility company Colbún to make the Zaldívar mine the first Chilean mine to operate with 100% renewable energy. From 2020 the mine will be powered by a mix of hydro, solar and wind power producing 550 gigawatt hours per year, which is expected to remove emissions equivalent to 350,000 tons of greenhouse gases per year. Newmont In September 2018, UK-based solar company Cambridge Energy Partners (CEP) announced that American mining corporation Newmont had deployed CEP’s Nomad mobile solar power array at the Akyem gold mine in Ghana. Zijin In May 2017, UK-based power generation company Aggreko announced that it had signed a ten year deal to provide solar-diesel hybrid power to the Bisha mine in Eritrea owned by Chinese mining group Zijin. Aggreko provides 22MW of diesel and 7.5MW of solar-generated power for the Bisha mine’s copper and zinc operations. Sandfire Resources Added a 10.6MW solar power plant at the DeGrussa mine in Australia. B2Gold Added 7MW of solar panels to its Namibia mine to complement existing heavy fuel oil generators. Caterpillar Began marketing hybrid microgrids that incorporate solar, diesel and natural gas generators, and advanced storage options. Target customers include remote mines and drill sites. While energy management practices using renewables are becoming more prevalent in the sector, some have yet to integrate renewable energy sources and enabling technologies. This may be due to the existing perceptions of renewables in terms of complexity, cost, reliability, and performance. Many miners still think of renewables like solar and wind, as the higher cost option for mines operating both on and off the grid. In addition to cost, reliability is another often-cited reason for not considering renewables. However, these concerns have largely been addressed. When speaking of renewables, there are two facets to reliability. The first relates to the efficacy of the technology itself, while the second relates to intermittency. Intermittency is being addressed and demonstrated to be manageable since the viability of battery storage is now enhanced by new technologies and the cost of utility-scale batteries is starting to decline. Incentivizing RE Technologies Various factors are influencing the optimal electricity generation at mining sites. Some of these are external factors such as sun and wind conditions, grid-availability or grid stability, while some are directly related to the mining company like environmental sustainability policies and availability of capital. Other factors are related to the mining site, among which are the remaining lifetime of the mine, the load-profile or the need of process-heat. Depending on several internal or external factors, a mining company may apply various business models for renewable energy: Plant Ownership Self-consumption (plant ownership). The power plant is constructed on-site and the mine consumes the energy (electricity or process heat). An added option is selling excess electricity to the grid or to adjacent consumers. Co-ownership (joint venture). The mining company and a third-party investor create a joint venture, which then acts similarly as an IPP and sells electricity to the mine. Leasing or rental agreements. The mine has no investment costs, but instead pays a leasing rate, operates the renewable energy plant and consumes or sells excess electricity that is produced from the leased power plant. Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) Standard PPA. The mine purchases the electricity at a predefined price from an independent power producer (IPP). The IPP can be off-grid or grid-connected and the PPA may contain flexible mechanisms such as link to diesel price or spot market price. Synthetic PPA. Even if it is not viable for a mine to establish its own renewable energy source in close proximity to its operations, the rise in so-called synthetic or virtual PPAs provides an incentive for mining companies to invest in renewables. The IPP sells at market price and power marketers provide a guaranteed price and compensate for certain deviations. This business model requires a grid-connection and a functioning spot-market. A mine enters into an agreement directly with a renewable energy producer at a fixed price but pays a fee to the utility, via which electricity will pass through to cover the cost of managing the grid. Energy-metal Swap. Basically it is a PPA, but the electricity is paid with mining products, which may eliminate some of the metals market price risk. Hybrid Microgrids. A key advantage of renewable energy is that it can power the energy needs of mining operations in remote areas, where the cost of building the infrastructure required to hook the mine up to the grid network or building a conventional power station will be significant. By having a dedicated off-grid renewable power source, a mining operation can meet all its energy requirements from green sources and make significant cost savings in the price it pays for electricity. Micro-grids involve a combination of power sources, usually diesel or natural gas generators combined with some renewable resources. Several mines have started down this path, integrating wind or solar PV generation with short duration lithium-ion batteries that produces 10-25% of a mine’s total electricity needs. The microgrid continues to be controlled by the diesel gensets with renewables acting as a reduction to the overall mine load. Fortunately, battery technology has advanced rapidly in recent years to keep up with the need to store increasingly large amounts of renewable energy at a lower cost and lesser physical footprint. One of the keys to this relationship is the rapid development of suitable renewable power supplies to both existing and new mining operations. The sooner mining operators adapt their models to accommodate this development, the sooner they will be able to persuade investors, lenders, and off-takers to support them. Miners must soon decide whether to push forward in the direction of renewables or else they risk becoming high-cost producers in their respective commodities as renewables are increasingly becoming factors for competitiveness. Renewables should also be examined as part of a broader social and environmental agenda in addition to their financial proposition as a replacement for existing traditional energy sources. Legacy Mines as RE Sites Mine site conversion can provide ongoing and long term value in the form of an alternative income stream well after mining operations have ceased. Specific benefits can include reusing infrastructure, reduced cleanup and decommissioning costs, re-employment of a skilled mining workforce and/or new local employment opportunities, and a clean after-use for a mine site that can also create a potential source of carbon credits with tradable value. Mine sites may prove to be ideal locations for the generation of renewable energy because they often cover extensive areas where wind and solar power structures will have less environmental impact and are therefore less likely to meet opposition. In addition, mine sites often already have the necessary electricity transmission lines and transport infrastructure in place, avoiding extra capital costs. Other forms of redevelopment may not be an option due to the remoteness of the site, or environmental conditions may rule out residential or commercial use without significant extra development cost. Although interest is increasing, the re-use of mine sites for alternative energy generation remains at a small scale but already in place in some sites.   Table No. 2. Renewable Energy Technologies at Former Mines Sites Technology Former Mine Sites Wind Power In the largest wind farm planned in Virginia, 166 turbines will be sited on over 4000 hectares of land disturbed by coal and hard rock mining activities. 99% of the land remains usable for other activities including farming.   In Scotland, Black Law Wind Farm near Forth covers 1850 hectares of abandoned coal mine land, grazing land and commercial forestry, with 42 wind turbines generating 97 MW, and plans for expansion potentially increasing the total generating capacity to 193 MW.   At the Hazlehead Wind Farm site in West Yorkshire, wind power is now being generated on the site of a former clay quarry spoil tip and landfill site, with three turbines and a proposed installed capacity of 6 MW. Solar Power The Geosol solar plant at Espenhain, Leipzig, constructed on a former lignite mine ash site, generates 5 MW and saves around 3700 tonnes of CO2 every year.   UK’s first large-scale solar PV farm developed by Lightsource Renewable Energy is located on the south-facing site of the former Wheal Jane tin mine near Truro in Cornwall. The solar farm houses 5680 panels with a peak generating capacity of 1437 MWh. If not done responsibly, researchers have found that the mining necessary for producing more metals and creating the required renewable energy infrastructure could exacerbate threats to ecosystems. While they fully support the move away from fossil fuel production as an essential part of the fight against climate change, alternative energy production must not happen at the expense of biodiversity, rainforests, and the livelihoods of indigenous peoples. In response to increasing corporate demand for clean energy, industry associations and coalitions have sprung up to make it easier for mining companies to enter into power PPAs with developers and utilities, or to self-generate their own electricity. There’s an optimal point in any proposed mining project where a decision needs to be made to integrate renewables, or else the mine life will expire before the full benefits of renewables can be realized. Conclusion If the mining and renewable energy industries pursue a strong symbiotic relationship, both will benefit in cost savings, reduced emissions and more importantly, preserving their social license to operate. This will be a very long transformation process but with new technologies in commercial development especially in battery storage, the mining industry has an incredible opportunity to drastically curb climate change impacts in its operations. Investors and lenders will also need to be part of the solution by revisiting the mining industry as an investment opportunity. They have to work with mining companies to implement ESG improvements and transition to sustainability. Instead of dismissing these efforts as industry “greenwashing”, critics and skeptics must exercise open mindedness in giving a chance to mining that, whilst historically perceived as dirty, is essential for the global aspiration of a clean and green energy transition.   Fernando “Ronnie” S. Penarroyo specializes in Energy and Resources Law, Project Finance and Business Development. He may be contacted at for any matters or inquiries in relation to the Philippine resources industry. Atty. Penarroyo’s commentaries are also archived at his professional blogsite at References Ali, Umar, Going green: renewable energy projects at mines around the world, Mining Technology, April 15, 2021, Better fit for mining and renewable energy, THEnergy, 2020, Cormack, David and Wood, Michael, Renewables in Mining: Rethink, Reconsider, Replay, Deloitte, 2017, Fawthrop, Andrew, Why the mining industry must continue to embrace renewable energy, NS Energy, 20 March 2020,,the%20volatility%20of%20energy%20markets. Gracey, Kyle, How can renewable energy technologies support mining and drilling?, Prescouter, October 2017, Jamasmie, Cecilia,  Anglo American to run South America mines 100% on renewables, MINING.COM. April 15, 2021,by%20green%20energy%20by%202022. Kostigen, Thomas M., The might of metals in the clean energy transition, GreenBiz, 10 February 2021,'s%20why%3A%20Minerals%20are%20critical,in%20the%20Paris%20Climate%20Agreement. Maisch, Marija, Mining sector to rely increasingly on renewables, report finds, PV Magazine,11 September 2018, Mining & Renewable Energy – A Greener Way Forward, Watson, Farley, and Williams, 23 November 2020, Sonter, Laura, Watson, James and Valenta, Richard, Renewable energy can save the natural world – but if we’re not careful, it will also hurt it, The Conversation, 02 September 2020, Thomas, Tobi, Mining needed for renewable energy 'could harm biodiversity’, The Guardian, 01 September 2020,,to%20biodiversity%2C%20researchers%20have%20found.&text=The%20scientists%20found%20mining%20potentially,used%20in%20renewable%20energy%20production Whitbread-Abrutat, Peter and Coppin, Nick, Wardell Armstrong International, Renewables Revive Abandoned Mines, Renewable Energy World, 13 April 2021, Zuliani, Jocelyn and Guilbaus, Joel, Renewable energy in mining: A practical application for active operations, Canadian Mining Journal, 01August 2020,


Patricia A. O. Bunye - March 17, 2021

International Women in Mining and the Wawa Weir 2 Project

  Kicking off International Women’s Month, the International Women in Mining Alliance (IWIM) Alliance held its first ever-virtual Global WIM Summit on March 1-2.  Through the wonder of technology, I had the pleasure of connecting with other IWIM leaders throughout the world without having to hop on a plane and despite our differences in time zones. The summit also combined live and pre-recorded sessions which made it possible to view sessions at leisure. Diwata-Women in Resource Development, Inc, of which I was Founding President, is IWIM’s member organization in the Philippines.  There are currently at least 37 IWIM organizations throughout the world. The Alliance is a pioneering initiative that brings IWIM organizations together to leverage their collective strength to provide a global, multilateral platform that will facilitate collaboration among them and promote the emergence of a strong, unified IWIM voice.  Prior to its launch, the different IWIM organizations were under a loose umbrella, getting together only occasionally for teleconferences to exchange ideas and experiences.   Last year, IWIM  embarked on a strategic partnership with the World Bank on a research project to gather  information to understand the opportunities and constraints women in mining organizations face.   Results of the research project have been collated in a report to be published online and presented at international mining conferences starting with the Global WIM Summit.  It will also be presented at Mining Indaba, PDAC, the World Bank's 2nd Gender Conference, and other events. In November last year, Diwata’s core group, led by our President, Atty. Joan Adaci-Cattiling, were interviewed by the World Bank’s researcher on  the challenges we have faced, the lessons we have learned and our recommendations for strengthening IWIM organizations.  Hearing excerpts of the final report, it was heartening to know that our sisters in other IWIM organizations face the same challenges, including difficulty in obtaining funding, dependence on the efforts of volunteers and getting members who are busy with their day jobs to engage. One session that I would have wanted to attend, but missed was on “Role Models and Mentors for Women in Mining”.  While women are very well represented in all facets of the mining industry (as geologists, mining engineers, metallurgists, environmental scientists, community relations officers,  lawyers, accountants, human resources professionals, adminstrative staff, truck drivers, etc.), we want to see the numbers of women at the very top increase. Recently, the Philippines topped Grant Thornton International’s 2021 Women in Business Report, a global survey among 29 economies on the role of women in senior management.   While I do not have the figures for the mining industry, a quick “scan of the room” will show the male mining CEOs still outnumber the women.  Thankfully, we have strong figures likes Gloria Tan Climaco, Chairman of the Board of Filminera Resources Corporation and Mt. Labo Exploration and Development Corporation, and Diwata’s own Joan Adaci-Cattiling, President of OceanaGold (Philippines), Inc., as exemplars. Before the March 2020 lockdown, Diwata was scheduled to launch its 'Industry Leaders' professional mentorship & networking program (with Gloria Tan Climaco as the first speaker), which is designed to benefit female professionals through interaction with respected resource persons, professional mentorship and networking opportunities.  While it is entirely possible to hold this activity online in the near future, we are still looking forward to in-person connections with our members soon, particularly young women mining professionals who will most benefit from the program. In the eight years of Diwata’s existence, perhaps we have focused on the word “resources” in its name to refer to natural resources, but we have not lost sight of our equally valuable human resources.  To build and sustain the mining industry, we must support the professional development and career progression of the women who “hold up half the sky”.     On February 26, I had the pleasure of emceeing the Philippine Infrastructure & Construction Club’s webinar on the Prime BMD Wawa Weir 2 Project featuring Prime BMD’s CEO J.V. Emmanuel A. “Jocot” De Dios and Director of Operations, Jeff Gallus.  They were joined by their colleague, Gisoue (Jeff) Pani, who focused on the technical aspects of the project.  Once completed, the Wawa Weir 2 Project is expected to deliver 518 million liters per day (MLD) of water to 500,000 households within Manila Water Co. Inc.’s franchise area.  The presentation was very timely as water is a basic necessity that cannot be taken for granted, especially as pointed out by Jocot, our population grows and migration into Metro Manila increases the demand for water. In the webinars that I have hosted and attended, I have noted that the attendees are less shy about asking questions.  Perhaps this is because 99% of webinars start punctually compared to live events, and more time can be devoted to the Q&A. In the Q&A on the Wawa Weir 2 Project, the questions ranged from technical to practical (“who do we contact in your company”), but what I found most interesting were Jocot’s responses to observations that Prime BMD appears to have handled its community relations well.  In the case of Prime BMD, Jocot says that there is no tried and tested formula or template, but what has worked well for them is ensuring respect for the communities, particularly the indigenous communities, in their project area, constantly engaging with them to understand their needs, and upholding their culture and traditions.   This is of course easier said than done, but it seems, at least in this respect, Prime BMD has succeeded where other companies have faced much difficulty.   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.


Fernando Penarroyo - March 17, 2021

Let’s Make It A Better 2021

  COVID-19 and its impact on the world provided a harsh lesson and wake-up call for all of us. People lost their jobs, businesses and entire fortunes on account of a virus whose origins remain a mystery. We worked from home, home schooled our kids, stayed away from senior members of our families, canceled special celebrations and well-planned vacations, and restricted our mobilities because we were afraid to catch and spread the virus. But the one thing that we will never forget is loved ones and friends losing their battle to this horrible illness. In 2020, the Philippine economy started on the wrong foot. It began with the eruption of the Taal Volcano creating a setback in the agriculture and tourism industries in Cavite and Batangas. Typhoons Rolly (international name Goni), Siony (Atsani), and Ulysses (Vamco) that hit the country in November in just a span of two weeks also brought considerable devastation to a large area in Luzon. These natural calamities and the pandemic caused a plunge in private domestic demand, deep contraction in investment activities, and weak exports bringing down the economy to -9.5%, its worst performance since the country began releasing growth data in 1947. After a long bout of physical exhaustion, mental fatigue, emotional stress, and apprehension,  somehow we felt a bit of relief that the long and dragging 2020 ended. There was a feeling of ambivalence as we reminisced the past year. We felt exuberant that we made it out alive from 2020 but melancholy for those who continued to suffer or didn’t make it through. However, the same mixed reactions and emotions continue to haunt us in 2021 as we are fully aware that though vaccines are being rolled out in succession, emerging variants of the virus bring uncertainties to our lives. Like a ship in a raging storm coasting along the shore, we can see the lighthouse but the waves prevent our vessel from getting to safe harbor. Certainly, there are still challenges that should not put us in complacency. If there is indeed a rebound that will return us to some semblance of normalcy, I don’t believe that we’ll ever return to where we were before. We will continue to wear masks, limit in-person meetings, and practice physical distancing, afraid that there will be another virus waiting to unleash its force with more tenacity and strength. We will continue to adjust our daily existence depending on how new developments in science will provide the safeguards to physical interaction and provide  adequate disease prevention and cure.   Coping with the pandemic “What happens to me now that my livelihood is gone? How will I pay my suppliers, creditors, and employees? Will the banks foreclose on my mortgages? Where will I get the capital to start all over again? Am I still employable? Will my kids have to stop going to school? How is my family going to survive? How will I get back on my feet?” We are all saddled with negative thoughts. Sometimes the more we think about negativity, the less we become creative and confident. Acting unkind to ourselves during these difficult times serves no purpose but to pile on more anxiety. We must confront the brutal realities head-on by resolving to be patient and steadfast. Undoubtedly 2021 will hold new challenges. This is the reality of life. Yet like those we’ve faced before, what matters most is not the problems themselves, but how well we’ve responded to them and how we’ve applied their lessons to grow and thrive in our lives. There are probably a million reasons not to smile during the pandemic. Some people struggle on a daily basis to look for the next meal, payment for rents, and money to buy the bare necessities. Some people vented their anger and frustration in social media. If you’re actually doing it, take a minute to realize that you have the literacy, luxury of time, and internet connectivity to read and type in your device. You have the ability to access the whole world with your gadget while others struggle to meet their most essential needs and probably wish for things you are currently enjoying. In many ways, all the reasons for complaining seem to be trivial and certainly no reason to bicker about. It is definitely better to flash that smile behind the mask than rant online. It is better to be content with what you have and strive hard to survive for the future. We’re all on the same team in the same boat. All of us need some form of encouragement and everyone will benefit if we decide to argue less and understand more. We are often tempted to be couch potatoes during these times when our mobility is hampered. We tend to binge on online entertainment and video games, which does not physically or mentally nurture us. Being busy is the best way to avoid feeling empty and dull. 2020 was touted by astrologers and feng shui masters to be an auspicious year for wealth building and the year people would get everything they wanted. No one predicted that 2020 will be the exact opposite. COVID-19 made us realize that there are certain aspects of our life that are uncontrollable. Instead of losing ourselves in despair and anxiety by focusing on situations beyond our control, it was our moment to reconnect to a deeper sense of purpose, promote our individual faith, and commune with nature.   Hoping for a better 2021 In 2020, we lost the ability to physically connect with others at our usual places of congregation in offices, schools, restaurants, concerts, sporting events, homecomings, and church services. Now we look forward to reconnecting in-person with others including people who we often took for granted before. Though we may realize that returning to the old normal is not possible in the near future, at least there is hope that 2021 will bring us some respite from the virus. Most people expect things to start to return to a restrictive new normal as vaccines have arrived and inoculations began.  For some of us, it will take some time until we have access to the vaccine, but as more people get it, there is a bigger chance that fewer people will acquire or die from the virus. The good news is that science has made us understand the virus better and will help humanity prepare for the next virus outbreak. We now see things from a different perspective. We appreciate our families, our friends, and everything that we have. We cherish not only our own lives but simple things like our environment and nature as a whole. We indulge in activities that nourish our physical and mental well-being.  We start to have leisurely walks, road tours by bike, and indulge in our hobbies like growing plants and cooking. We see brand new clothes and shoes, unused and gathering dusts in our closets. We see cars parked idly in our garage because our movement is restricted. Nature has decided for us that now we need to own less. The pandemic has given us the opportunity to heal, preserve, and strengthen our bodies. It was also a time to cultivate more positive emotions – gratitude, compassion for self and others, connection and intimacy with family and optimism. It taught us to refocus on the most important things in life. What should we expect for 2021? 2021 is the time to dedicate ourselves to reflect, renew, and reset our lives after a tumultuous 2020 beset by failures and disappointments. It is a propitious time to reflect on where we’re at and where we want to be. It is the moment to renew our commitment to be a better person and make positive choices in life. It is the point of realization to reset everything and start anew after embracing our failures and making sure that things will turn out differently. Some people experience a positive change as a result of their struggle with a major life crisis or traumatic event. Success waits for people who can cope with the ongoing uncertainty. “What have we done differently in 2020 to cope with the pandemic?” For some of us who managed to navigate the pandemic with a positive attitude, the ongoing crisis honed our adaptability, resilience, agility,   and tenacity. Just because our plans got derailed last year is no reason not to set our sights on our goals. Consider 2020 as a temporary setback and continue to believe in ourselves and trust our abilities to recover. We have to set a daily goal to keep us on our toes and motivate us to continue studying, and working. We must make it a point not to waste any day, any moment, or any amount of energy remaining as we continue to live on. Our inner confidence will allow us to direct our time and talent to our vision and ultimate goals. Our purpose should not be limited by the plans that fell through in 2020 or what we were unable to do. If we learn from our failures and take full responsibility, our trials will make us successful. And in time, we'll be even more successful, because we'll never stop trying to be better than we are today. Successful people have a purpose in life. They generate excitement, dedication and passion and these they share their passions with others. If we've found a purpose, something that inspires and fuels us to stand up and achieve, then we’re living life the way we want it. We are now witnessing the unprecedented development of different vaccines produced by both private and state-sponsored companies. Science-based and democratic institutions are much needed to address the vaccine development and roll-out. It is now government’s responsibility to procure them cheaply and distribute them within the soonest possible time. Hopefully, the end to the pandemic is near at hand though we’re not there yet. In the meantime, we should continue to be vigilant about our own safety and that of others. The challenge now is to educate a misinformed populace about the enduring risks of the coronavirus and the disinformation that circulates on social media on the necessity to be vaccinated. Vaccine hesitancy is a global health threat especially in developing countries. Even if a coronavirus vaccine is made available to everyone, people especially our front liners and elders need to be convince to get it.   Personal reflections There were some silver linings in the clouds despite the pale and gloom that came in 2020. People learned how to become creative in augmenting their incomes and made use of their time for self-improvement. Since people no longer have to endure wasted hours spent in traffic, people working from home have become more productive. Meetings and conferences are easier to organize and attend. People actually looked forward to seeing their colleagues online to break the monotony of working alone. Attending professional and self-improvement webinars and getting accreditation from such became easier. Parents and children shared meals, bonded, and communicated forging stronger relationships never experienced during the time before the pandemic. Parents suddenly were getting involved in school work making sure that the kids are not getting shortchanged in their online schooling. People learned new skills and pursued a variety of home-based businesses and recreational activities. I know of some friends who renewed their passion in reading, cooking, gardening, painting and other personal pursuits which they have passed off in favor of the corporate rat race in their concrete jungles. Some of them turned their passions into successful online businesses. I discovered myself, learned to understand my quirks, and made it easy on myself. I believed we were brought up in a culture of accumulating material possessions which paled in comparison to the actual life-giving pursuits we have taken for granted. I see each day as a gift of life and another opportunity to live because many people had such chance taken from them. To keep myself busy, I made a thorough search of all the articles and photographs I have saved in my computer through the years. I compiled my Master or Laws research papers, notes, and powerpoint presentations accumulated in my teaching and lecturing vocation.  I organized them, created my website and uploaded them in my blog site.  It was the next best thing to writing and publishing a book. I also wrote blogs about music, films, arts, and even K-dramas. I tried perfecting my pasta recipes. I made a point to walk around the village everyday and converted part of our garage to a mini-gym. I continued to look after my health through video consultations with my doctors. Due to the physical distancing and travel restriction guidelines during the pandemic, what I really missed was our trekking group’s outdoor activities. I missed climbing mountains and camping in forests and mountain base camps. Nevertheless, with my new found time, it allowed me to take in the beauty of nature right in my own surroundings. I learned to slow down, relax and appreciate the good and simple things in my mundane life. I enjoyed staying under the sun and proverbially stopped to smell the flowers. The air was noticeably clean.  During a lakeshore drive, I could clearly gaze at both the high-rises of Bonifacio Global City and the wind farms nestled on the Sierra mountain range of Rizal while taking a whiff of fresh air. Despite the pandemic, I continued to write articles for Philippine Resources as a way of getting myself updated with the resources and infrastructure industries. I did a lot of online lectures and webinars, gave interviews, and acted as resource speaker for online forums and conferences as part of my advocacy for renewable energy and responsible mining. My audience were varied - leaders of various industries, law school organizations, students and professionals involved in the mining and renewable energy industry, and geology majors reviewing for their board exams. These activities were my mental exercises. Though I certainly prefer in-person interaction, the good thing about my online lectures was that participants have overcome their nerves by interacting virtually compared to a physical seminar or conference. I noticed that participants in my webinars and lectures were more active in engaging me with their questions and comments. Surprisingly, even technically-challenged seniors have learned to master the internet and online meetings, including screen sharing of their presentations and files. I wish an instant reboot of life if not a total deletion from my memory of the enduring tragedies we experienced in 2020. I desire to return to people interacting without wearing wearing face masks and not conscious of any physical distance. But I realize that our lives will not return to our previous normal overnight. My motto is to survive in order to strive and prepare myself for the new normal. It will be a gradual and slow learning process beset with both small victories and temporary setbacks. Chaos and crises will not follow a timeline. The underlying challenges we encountered in 2020 will continue to haunt us well into the forthcoming years until the virus has totally been eradicated and the traumatic memories would just become a mere footnote in mankind’s history like the Spanish flu of the previous century. In 2020, we see how quickly our lives changed with the blink of our eyes. We realized that we are not in total control of the world. But the best part is that we are in total control of ourselves and we can certainly control how we interact with the world around us. That basically makes all the difference. We hope that 2021 will be a brighter and better year. Perhaps we can find inspiration in the biblical story of Job. After Job was made to suffer all misfortunes and tragedies in life, “…the Lord blessed the later days of Job more than his earlier ones ... Job lived a hundred and forty years; and he saw his children, his grandchildren, and even his great-grandchildren. Then Job died, old and full of years.” A better 2021 starts with a better “me”. Perhaps after a full year of a better 2021, we can look forward to a 2022 that will be even better.   Fernando “Ronnie” S. Penarroyo specializes in Energy and Resources Law, Project Finance and Business Development. He may be contacted at for any matters or inquiries in relation to the Philippine resources industry. Atty. Penarroyo’s commentaries are also archived at his professional blogsite at

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