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Commentary

Commentary

Philippine Resources - September 24, 2020

A “modern day gold rush”

BY: Patricia A. O. Bunye: Over the past few months, the price of gold has been going haywire. As the coronavirus pandemic changed the world as we knew it in March, the price of gold crashed alongside stocks then quickly regained. Thereafter, a frenzy of investment drove up the price to an all-time high. On August 4, it shot up to USD2,021/troy ounce for the first time ever before another week of big swings. It has also been reported in the Financial Times that governments globally have announced USD20 trillion worth of stimulus to combat the impact of the coronavirus, equivalent to a little over 20% of global gross domestic product. According to Bank of America, the impact of the coronavirus and US-China tensions could push the gold price towards USD$3,000/ troy ounce in the next 18 months. The volatility of the price of gold has drawn both Wall Street and mainstream investors seeking fast gains, leading some analysts to call it a “modern day gold rush” and call into question gold’s reputation as a safe haven asset. Gold is generally considered a “safe haven” because it has acted as a store of value, maintaining its purchasing power for thousands of years. The reality is that over the long term, the price of gold remains constant while the price of everything else goes up. A safe haven investment typically offers diversification to an investor’s portfolio, helping it withstand volatility, or short-term swings in the prices of assets that are more vulnerable to market whims. They normally perform well during downturns and financial crises when riskier assets underperform.These days, however, prices can move at a moment’s notice without a fundamental reason. Volatility means more risk and that means gold isn’t necessarily the haven people think that it is.To understand why the price of gold is so volatile, it is also necessary to understand how gold trading works.Like other precious metals, the price of gold is tied to other physical assets. The physical gold market involves mining, processing, travel and sales. Mining happens on every continent, except Antartica. The top producing countries are China, Russia and Australia, accounting for 2500-3000 metric tons of gold annually. The gold is smelted and refined into bars, coins, and other products, including jewelry. According to the Wall Street Journal, much of the gold is sent to London where the Bank of England holds roughly 400,000 bars of gold worth USD260 billion. The physical trading of gold takes place with a few banks working with the London Bullion Market Association to set the price of a troy ounce of gold. The gold stash in London is said to be rivaled only by that of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which holds the largest hoard of physical gold.In other places in the world, gold is a common investment as well. In many cultures in Asia, gold is seen as having an intrinsic value and prestige that can be passed down from generation to generation, thus generating a large demand for physical gold in the form of bars, jewelry and coins. Those who want physical gold, generally go to sources such as APMEX, the world's largest online retailer of precious metals, with over USD11 billion in transactions since its founding in 1999. It is also possible to buy exchange-traded funds that hold physical metal, the largest of which is SPDR Gold Shares, which is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).Aside from gold that is traded on the physical market, gold is also tied to commodity futures. Gold futures are traded on the commodity exchange (comex) of the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX). After the unexpected stellar performance of gold last August, the price has gone down again as of this writing, a reminder that the momentum in the market can change quickly. Still, it hasn’t stopped the gold frenzy. Some analysts say that what’s drawing investors to gold now is not faith in gold itself, but more a lack of faith in other things: central banks, governments and, in particular, a lack of faith in the availability of real returns elsewhere.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.

Commentary

Philippine Resources - June 08, 2020

Responding to COVID-19 in the Mining Industry

By Patricia A. O. BunyeOn 08 March 2020, the Philippine Government declared a State of Public Health Emergency throughout the entire archipelago in light of confirmation of the local transmission of COVID-19. All government agencies and local government units were tasked to assist, cooperate and mobilize resources to undertake critical, urgent and appropriate responses to address the exigencies of the situation. Since then, government agencies have been releasing the appropriate issuances to implement measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 and adapt to the crisis.The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (“MGB”), the government agency responsible for the conservation, management, development and use of the country’s mineral resources, likewise issued several memoranda instituting various measures to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, including realignment of funds, extension of deadlines, adoption of alternative work arrangements and implementation of safety protocols for operations in the mining sector. Realignment of Social Development and Management Program BudgetIn a Memorandum dated 27 March 2020, the MGB authorized mining companies to re-align unutilized funds from their Social Development and Management Program (“SDMP”) to assist host and neighboring communities around mining projects, as well as the non-impact barangays in their respective localities, until the threat of COVID-19 has abated. The principal objective of the re-alignment is to make use of the unutilized SDMP funds for the social amelioration of communities around the mining projects through the provision of health or hygiene kits and food packs in order to efficiently and timely respond to the needs of the communities to combat COVID-19. As of 27 May 2020, approximately Php297 million of the SDMP budget has been utilized to aid the concerned frontliners and households. Extension of DeadlinesAside from food and medical provisions, the MGB also provided legal relief by relaxing the rules on submission of documents and payment of fees, taking into consideration the logistical, social and economic difficulties encountered as a result of quarantine measures. In this regard, the MGB issued a notice allowing the extension of deadlines of the submission of reportorial requirements and proof of payment of occupation and other regulatory fees as prescribed under the Mining Permit/Contract up to 30 June 2020, or up to the immediate submission date when the pertinent quarantine is lifted. Protocols for the Resumption of Mining and Mineral Processing Operations under General Community Quarantine (“GCQ”)Following the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (“IATF-MEID”), the Philippine Government announced on 28 May 2020 that Metro Manila, along with other regions classified as low-risk and high-to-moderate risk areas for coronavirus transmission, would transition from a strict lockdown under the Enhanced Community Quarantine (“ECQ”) to a less stringent GCQ beginning 01 June 2020. While movement and transportation is limited under both quarantine protocols to avoid the further spread of COVID-19, the transition from the stringent measures of ECQ to the relaxed measures of GCQ is expected to benefit the economy and the workforce as it allows for the reopening of several industries previously ordered closed under ECQ for not being essential industries. With the easing of quarantine measures in most parts of the Philippines to support the economy, the mining sector and other select industries are now allowed to operate at limited or full capacity. However, since the threat of COVID-19 transmission is still present as cases continue to rise every day, operations of industries are allowed but remain subject to the condition that they follow strict safety protocols. In line with this, the MGB has released guidelines for the resumption of mining and mineral processing operations under GCQ under Memorandum Order No. 2020-004. Workforce and Working ArrangementsUnder the guidelines, a workforce anywhere between 50% up to full operational capacity at the mine/plant site shall be allowed, without prejudice to work from home and other alternative work arrangements. In order to determine who will be required to report for work, mining contractors or permit holders are mandated to conduct personnel profiling in accordance with the IATF-MEID guidelines. Employees not allowed to report for work or those who are prescribed to be on self-quarantine shall be subject to special work arrangements, such as work from home. Responsibilities of Mining EmployersAside from personnel profiling, mining contractors or permit holders are also required to provide for the necessary medical equipment and supplies, such as thermal scanners, masks, gloves, and hand sanitizers, as well as transportation to and from mine and plant sites and accommodation for employees residing five (5) kilometers away from the mine or plant site in order to reduce exposure to the virus and protect the workers from infection. To further ensure the safety and health of the mining workforce, mining contractors or permit holders are also enjoined to observe strict sanitation and physical distancing measures. Guidelines for shipment of minerals and mineral products In cases of shipment of minerals or mineral products, supplies and materials, the guidelines require that cargo vessels shall undergo a 14-day quarantine beginning from the time of its departure at the last port of call.No vessel crew may be allowed to disembark from the vessel and only personnel authorized by the Philippine Ports Authority and cleared by the Quarantine Medical Officer may board the vessel subject to observation of a “no contact” policy within the vessel. Additionally, miners are enjoined to follow measures to contain the spread of the disease, such as (a) submitting a Shipment Report containing the information on the crew list, the port of origin and the COVID-19 test results of the crew; and (b) passing through holding/disinfection areas for persons who shall board and disembark from the vessel.The guidelines, as well as the other measures implemented by the MGB, address the immediate impacts of COVID 19. In the longer term, mining companies need to consider the opportunities and risks arising from this crisis. While for some commodities, the short-term market demand may be low, other commodities like gold typically benefit in times of high uncertainty. Another so-called silver lining for the industry is the lower cost of energy, which usually constitutes 20-25% of operating costs.During this period, companies are also like to respond by rationalizing or streamlining their operations and their workforces, including automating more functions and processes. They will also be called upon to provide services, particularly in health care, to the host and neighboring communities ‘above and beyond compliance’ as these communities are often already underserved by the government.More than simply adapting to the crisis, mining companies are challenged to respond with resilience, particularly in navigating new or increased legal or financial risks. It is a brave new unprecedented world for us all, where only those who can embrace change will survive.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.

Commentary

Philippine Resources - June 08, 2020

What the PH can Learn from Indonesia's Successful Nickel Industry - Part 2

By Marcelle P. VillegasPreviously, we featured an update on the mining regulations in the Philippines. We also examined the export volumes of nickel ore from the Philippines and how these had been affected by Indonesia's exports. Lastly, we discussed the viability of the Philippines' laterite ore deposits and what this could mean for future production. These were the scope of a presentation by Mr George Bujtor last September at the 7th Asian Nickel Conference in Jakarta, Indonesia. His report is titled “Philippines: Regulatory Update and the Potential of the Philippine Laterite Ore” - “How the Philippines was Surpassed by Indonesia in the Laterite Nickel Industry”. Mr Bujtor is the CEO and owner of private companies, namely Electric Metals Limited (EML) in Hong Kong and PT Electric Metals Indonesia. These are companies which are developing the innovative EML Process for the low-cost leaching of nickel laterite ores. The EML Process is the first of its kind in green technology in nickel processing, and he introduced this at the Asian Nickel Conference in Indonesia last September.Mr Bujtor is an expert in the technical, financial and commercial aspects of mining operations with over 35 years of experience in the industry. He has extensive work experience in the past as General Manager and Managing Director in Rio Tinto, Australia. In the Philippines is the former CEO of Toledo Mining Corporation and Berong Nickel Mine in Palawan, as well as CEO of Atlas Mining Corporation. As a review from Part I of our article, we learned from Mr Bujtor that the Philippines is currently Asia's leading supplier of nickel and cobalt which are raw materials for the battery sector. He stated that with the right policies, the Philippines could become one of the world's leading suppliers of battery raw materials, including battery manufacturing. [1]He said, "Both the Philippines and Indonesia have the resources to dominate the nickel industry. The future growth will be in stainless steel and the battery sector. ""Over the next 4 to 5 years, nickel demand growth will be in the stainless steel and battery sectors. Indonesia will continue to dominate the NPI growth and investment. The Philippines will only be able to compete in the battery sector." Now, what is the future of the Philippine laterite nickel ores? With regards to the competitiveness of Indonesia versus the Philippines, he mentioned that, "Relative to Indonesia, the Philippines has NO competitive advantage in ferro-nickel production." He gave the following key points:Indonesia has built, and continues to build, power stations to provide the electricity to its ferro-nickel industry. The Philippines has limited coal resources and a negative view of coal-fired power stations.With past high grading and sales of saprolite ores, little high-grade saprolite tonnage remains in the Philippines to produce low cost ferro-nickel/NPI.Indonesia has the advantage of having considerably higher saprolite ore grades and lesser environmental controls. These are key cost drivers.The future for the Philippines is not in ferro-nickel or NPI.He concluded, "The future of the Philippines lies in the processing of its laterite ores as battery raw materials…” Here is why: The Philippines is currently one of two producers of battery raw materials in Asia, through the Nickel Asia/Sumitomo JV.Sumitomo has the world’s leading technology for HPAL.The Philippines has large resources of laterite ores with medium to high Ni, Co & Sc grades.Hydrometallurgical processes like HPAL require very little electricity relative to ferro-nickel production.The Philippines leads the world in an innovative atmospheric leaching process adapted for the tropics – ‘The EML Process’ –a low cost atmospheric leaching processGreen products for a green future As mentioned earlier, The EML Process is the first of its kind in green technology in nickel processing. "The low environmental impact either locally or globally of the EML process not only produces products green in colour (nickel), but green in nature to promote the ever-increasing demand for battery and related metals to combat the continued burning of fossil fuels and consequent global environmental pollution." [2]The EML Process was developed in the Philippines. It is an atmospheric leaching process (done at room temperatures and pressure) adapted to treat all laterite nickel ores. (The two methods of atmospheric leaching done by EML are vat leaching and tank leaching.) Here are some key points: Test work undertaken in the Philippines leveraging off Cu, Au, Li and Ni experience“Closed system” with leached ore placed back into mined-out areas –no emissions to land, air or waterLowest carbon footprint and environmentally the “greenest” of all Ni technologiesDisruptive technology with lowest capital cost in the industry at Does not require a power station [1]"The EML Process is not only simple and safe but provides an environmental solution to the laterite nickel industry hitherto much maligned for its poor environmental rehabilitation performance, excess CO2 emissions and excess waste generated."“The principals behind Electric Metals Limited have developed an innovative leaching process to treat tropical nickel laterites, both saprolite and limonite ores. The process can also be applied to other ores of lithium, copper gold, uranium etc.”“The leach process has industry lowest capital costs and is environmentally far superior to the more complex and expensive technologies such as the High Pressure Acid Leach (HPAL) and Rotary Kiln Electric Furnace (RKEF) processes.” [3]The three essential steps in the EML Process include:1. Leaching of the laterite ore: Mined ore is contacted with dilute sulphuric acid to dissolve the nickel & cobalt (as well as other metals like aluminium, scandium, manganese, etc).2. Metals Recovery: Solutions containing the metals of interest are treated to recover the contained nickel & cobalt initially, as a mixed hydroxide product containing 35% to 55% nickel and 1% to 3% cobalt.3. Neutralization: Leached ore is washed and neutralised prior to being returned to the mined-out open pit. The leached ore residue is non-toxic and chemically inert and suitable for revegetation or agriculture.In summary, while the issue of nickel processing and environmental concerns may be a topic of debate among environmental activists and industrialists, the solution lies in having a gamechanger in the nickel processing arena. Today, we now have a low-cost and environment-friendly nickel processing method called The EML Process. This offers a promising future in the industry and for the environment as well. -----Acknowledgement:Thank you to Mr George Bujtor of Electric Metals Limited. -----Reference:[1] Bujtor, George. (11 Sept. 2019). “Philippines: Regulatory Update and the Potential of the Philippines Laterite Ore -- How the Philippines was Surpassed by Indonesia in the Laterite Nickel Industry”. Presented at Asian Nickel Conference 2019, Jakarta Indonesia[2] Retrieved from Electric Metals Limited website - https://electricmetalsltd.wordpress.com/[3] Bujtor, George and Wallwin Peter. (02 May 2020). “The EML Process”. Electric Metals Limited investor flyer. Photo credit: Marcelle P. Villegas, Philippine Resources Journal

Commentary

Philippine Resources - June 08, 2020

PH Mineral Reporting Code and Its Relevance to PH Minerals Industry

Atty. Dennis A. Quintero, PABC Chair - Presenting the Brief History of Philippine Mineral Reporting Code (PMRC) at the "Focus Group Discussion on the Philippine Mineral Reporting Code and Its Relevance to the Philippine Mineral Industry", Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila - 10 Sept. 2019 (Photo by Marcelle P. Villegas, Philippine Resources Journal)By Marcelle P. VillegasWhen the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines organised their annual Mining Philippines last year in September, one of the most important parts of their three-day international conference and exhibition took place on its first day at the Sulu Room of the Sofitel Philippines Plaza Manila. It was a small gathering in a separate venue outside of the main conference -- the “Focus Group Discussion on the Philippine Mineral Reporting Code (PMRC) and Its Relevance to the Philippine Minerals Industry”. Although the discussion took place last September, the further development of the PMRC is something to look forward to this year and perhaps even the following year. The Philippine Mineral Reporting Code or the “Code” was created to set out minimum standards, recommendations and guidelines for Public Reporting in the Philippines of Exploration Results, Mineral Resources and Ore Reserves. “The Code was formulated with the intent of setting minimum standards for public reporting on minerals that is compatible with global standards. The formulation of the PMRC relied on the international codes from Australia, South Africa, European Union and Canada,” according to the Philippine-Australia Business Council (PABC). The closed-group discussion was moderated by Atty. Ronald S. Recidoro, COMP Executive Director. Atty. Dennis A. Quintero (PABC Chair and Meeting Chair) started the event with an “Introduction of Meeting Attendees and Brief History of PMRC”. "The idea of having a Philippine Mineral Reporting Code started during one of the mining roadshows in Australia, participated in by representatives from the Philippine-Australia Business Council. Back then, the Chairman was Atty. Leo Dominguez and the delegation was composed of the various mining industry stakeholders like the Chamber of Mines and also the Philippine Stock Exchange. And the idea came up that if Australia has its JORC (Australasian Joint Ore Reserves Committee), and [thought of] the idea for the Philippines to have its own as well. And that's how the idea of having PMRC came about,” said Atty. Quintero.Organizations that were involved in the promulgation of the PMRC back in 2007 were Philippine Minerals Development Institute Foundation, Philippine Society of Mining Engineers, Geological Society of the Philippines, Society of Metallurgical Engineers of the Philippines, Mines and Geosciences Bureau, Philippine Stock Exchange, Board of Investments, Chamber of Mines of the Philippines and Philippine-Australia Business Council.The Secretariat Head of the Geological Society of the Philippines CPAC, Engr. Ramon N. Santos reported on the “Basics of the Philippine Mineral Reporting Code 2007 and Its Implementing Rule and Regulations”. Mr. Joey Nelson R. Ayson (PMEA President) reporting on “PMRC: Updates and Relevance to the Mineral Industry”. Other speakers were (top left - right) Engr. Roger A. De Dios (PSEM National President) and Mr George B. Baquiran (GSP CPAC Chair) (Photo by Marcelle P. Villegas, Philippine Resources Journal)Engr. Juancho Pablo S. Calvez, Chief Metallurgist of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and Member of the PRC Board for Metallurgical Engineering gave a rundown of the PMRC Committee Role and Composition. This was followed by a discussion on the Committee for Mineral Reserves International Reporting Standards (CRIRSCO) and International Reporting Codes by Mr George B. Baquiran. He is the Chairperson of the Geological Society of the Philippines - Competent Person Accreditation Committee (GSP CPAC) and PMRCC Standards Committee Chair. PMEA President, Mr Joey Nelson R. Ayson reported on “PMRC: Updates and Relevance to the Mineral Industry”. Included in his report is the CRIRSCO Membership Update (Task Force of International Council for Mining and Metals - ICMM):● Feb. 23, 2019 - CRIRSCO-PMRCC MOU signed● March 2019 - PMRCC-CRIRSCO Working Group formed● Sept. 9-11, 2019 - Annual CRIRSCO Meeting in Washington D.C., U.S.A. ○ PMRCC Executive Committee attended (Jun Angeles and Jake Foronda)● Proposed Timeline for PMRCC to become a CRIRSCO member ○ Aim by third quarter of 2020 ● Upgrading PMRC 2007 according to the CRIRSCO Reporting Template 2019 ○ Approved PMRC Code aim by second quarter of 2020Mr Ayson also reported the “Bases for PMRC Review/Upgrade” wherein the primary basis is the CRIRSCO International Reporting Template 2019, and the secondary bases are JORC 2012 and NI 43-101.In conclusion, he stated the PMRC and PMRCC relevance to the Philippine minerals industry, namely:● To protect investors in mineral exploration and mining● To protect the capital markets from fraudulent practices● To promote a common understanding in reporting mineral assets● For our Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) to be world class in attracting mineral investments, both domestically and internationally. PMRC Committee’s Relevance:● Need for a Philippine-wide National Reporting Organization (NRO) to monitor the effectiveness and relevance of the PMRC and subject the PMRC to periodic reviewers● Growing importance of compatibility and substantial equivalency with other international reporting codes ○ It is important to be a CRIRSCO member to ensure that PMRC Code will always be at par with the CRIRSCO family of internal reporting codes. Finally, the Open Forum was conducted by Engr. Roger A. De Dios, PSEM National President.

Commentary

Philippine Resources - June 08, 2020

Geoscience in a Post-COVID-19 World

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

Commentary

Philippine Resources - June 08, 2020

German Geologist Conducts Lecture About Taal Volcano

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

Commentary

Philippine Resources - June 02, 2020

Architect Palafox on urban planning advice for pandemic survival

(L-R) Urban planner and Architect Felino “Jun” A. Palafox, Jr., Mr Joey Nelson R. Ayson (President, Philippine Mining and Exploration Association), Marcelle P. Villegas (Journalist, Philippine Resources Journal) (Photo by Matthew Brimble, Philippine Resources Journal) By: Marcelle P. Villegas“Livable cities have forward planning.” (Architect Jun Palafox, Jr., on ANC’s “Market Edge”) Architect Felino “Jun” A. Palafox, Jr. is a multi-awarded urban planner and founder of Palafox Associates. Some of his well-known designs include the City of Manila Comprehensive Land Use Plan and Zoning, Rockwell Center and Makati Streetscapes, Manila Polo Club redevelopment in Makati City, Ortigas Streetscapes, La Mesa Ecopark in Quezon City, Santa Elena Golf Course Community in Bulacan, Manila Southwoods in Cavite, First Industrial Park in Batangas, Qatar Embassy in Paranaque, and more. During his T.V. interview last April 13th at ANC’s “Market Edge” by Ms Cathy Yang, he gave his professional insights and analysis on how other countries survived pandemics in the past, the flaws in the city design and systems in the Philippines that make it prone to more problems during a pandemic, and his advice on how we can improve in addressing the COVID-19 crisis properly and in preparation for future pandemics.He was asked by Ms Cathy Yang on “Market Edge”, “Nobody has been spared from the COVID-19 pandemic, not even countries with top-notch healthcare systems. Why do you think that is?” “I think they were not prepared. The whole world was not prepared for this pandemic. And although there were already warnings in the year 2000 - 2005 and some investments internationally had already been prepared for the next pandemic, but it seems they only planned it when the epidemic started and not before. So everybody was caught unaware of it. We have a disaster preparedness plan but not for this pandemic,” replied Mr Palafox. [1]When asked how he thinks countries can cope to increase resiliency from where we are now, he said, “Now we are doing the observation and what's going on in this situation and everybody is addressing this problem. We should now have a plan for the transition into the new world order... If you've seen our planning, we have a very weak urban planning system here. We should now include healthcare systems as part of the planning and disaster preparedness for this pandemic.”Mr Palafox added that there are a lot of lessons to learn from history on how to successfully deal with a pandemic. He mentioned in his weekly newspaper column at The Manila Times that various studies and historical evidence support the connection between climate change and environmental changes with the occurrence of diseases. [2] “...it has been proven that climate change is making the world more hospitable for viruses, bacteria and pathogens to thrive. Moreover, health experts believe that by pushing into the last wild spaces of the planet, humans come in contact with wildlife populations that carry new kinds of diseases.” [2]“But history teaches us that much can be done through proper design and urban planning to battle health emergencies and even prevent it. In the mid-1800s, urban planner Frederick Law Olmstead was able to integrate urban planning and public health by promoting the concept that community design is key in enhancing physical and mental health. As a result, he designed hundreds of green spaces, including New York’s Central Park. In the mid-19th century, the city of London was experiencing recurring cholera outbreaks. This pushed parliament to pass legislation enabling the Metropolitan Board of Works to develop a sanitation system and begin street improvements. Joseph Bazalgette, the board’s chief engineer, designed an efficient sewage system that intercepted and diverted wastewater from old sewers and underground rivers to treatment facilities. Years later, most of the city was already connected to the new sewer network.”[2]Moreover, he stated that in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the correlation between urban planning and public health became more evident in the following: 1) prevention of diseases through community infrastructure like drinking water and sewage systems; 2) development of green spaces to encourage physical activity and promote better mental health; and 3) establishment of land use and zoning ordinances to protect people from hazardous risks. [2]Mr Palafox also mentioned during his interview in “Market Edge”, "I've been saying that Metro Manila, with the way it is, can no longer be sustainable.” He pointed out that we do not have enough parks and open spaces, and social distancing is hard in our transportation system. He suggested that in EDSA, “Walking and bicycle should be the first mode of transportation. Our planning has always been automobile centric and bias for the automobile. Our national development is to the primacy of Metro Manila. It is Metro Manila centric, so if Metro Manila is paralyzed, the rest of our country is paralysed. There had been so many proposals before to develop the regions and make other cities in the country more attractive so people don’t have to migrate to Metro Manila.”He also wrote in his weekly column in The Manila Times, “Sadly, there will be more future pandemics. According to the World Health Organization, the next pandemic is a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’. The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is not the last major outbreak we will experience. This will be the result of our choices and how we humans have been negligent in inhabiting the planet.” [2]“In urban planning, guidelines are laid out to determine how many hospitals and other medical facilities are necessary for municipalities and cities to cope with health emergencies and other disasters. According to the Department of Health, the components of urban health system development comprises programs and strategies for Healthy Cities Initiative, citywide investment planning for health, and urban health equity assessment and response, among others.” [2]He mentioned how other countries are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and what we can learn from them. “Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan received praise from health experts because they were able to prepare for the coronavirus before it reached them, and they were able to immediately and aggressively act on it when it arrived. Hence, these territories have only less than 300 confirmed Covid-19 patients even though the virus reached them way before it reached Italy, France and Spain, which now have thousands of cases. Hong Kong was able to quickly develop diagnostic tests and promptly deploy these to major hospitals in the city. Social distancing was extensively implemented at once, and many locations were readily repurposed to serve as quarantine facilities.”“Singapore’s prime minister, and health and foreign ministers issued clear messages and were very transparent to the public and the rest of the world. The government learned from its experiences dealing with SARS, or the severe acute respiratory syndrome, and H1N1, also known as swine flu, and was able to establish a sound system for tracking and containing epidemics. The country immediately developed tests for COVID-19, intensified production of the materials needed to carry out the tests, and offered free healthcare services related to the disease. Taiwan enforced 124 safety protocols that reflect comprehensive and well-designed policies and strategies. Taiwan was able to restrain the rise of confirmed cases by maximizing public health infrastructure and data analytics, affordable healthcare, swift action from the national government, and wide-ranging educational outreach.”He then concluded, “Seeing what has been happening to our country recently, we could definitely learn a lot from the overall response of Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan. What we are witnessing in the news reflects that our strategies and protocols to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus need further study and enhancements. If worse comes to the worst, our healthcare system will not be able to cope with only 89,000 hospital beds and 1,000 ICU or intensive care unit beds. Clearly, we are simply not as prepared as we want to be. We lack investments in our healthcare system, and we are missing well-planned systems and policies for health emergencies.”Last April, his own family experienced a great loss when his niece passed away. UP-PGH Head Nurse Faye Marie Palafox was a frontliner and a safety officer-in-charge with an important role of assuring her team has complete PPEs before facing patients with COVID-19. Mr Palafox wrote on his newspaper column, “In keeping with our belief in philanthropic and patriotic architecture in times of crisis, we at Palafox Associates and Palafox Architecture Group are donating the full design manual of the Ligtas Covid Centers. We prepared this with hospital managers, health systems professionals, emergency and disasters experts, and graduate students from the Asian Institute of Management Masters in Innovation and Business (AIM MSIB). Using infection prevention and control principles, the design manual can convert basketball courts into isolation units for suspect and probable COVID-19 patients. We hope our architectural design for the COVID centers will help decongest hospitals and help our nation in the fight against this pandemic.” [3]Palafox Associates is the first Filipino architectural firm listed in the World’s Top 500 Architectural Firms of the World Architecture Magazine. His company ranked 94th in the list and has a distinction of being the only Southeast Asian company in this list. By 2012, Palafox Associates was Top 8 in the Leisure Market sector. Mr Palafox was included in the “People of the Year” list by People Asia Magazine in 2010. He received the Gusi Peace Prize Award in 2011. In 2017, he was awarded the Outstanding Filipino (TOFIL) Awards for Architectural and Urban Planning Honoree. -----Acknowledgement: Thank you to Ms Cathy Yang and the team of “Market Edge” on ANC.-----References:[1] Yang, Cathy (13 April 2020). “How can countries better prepare for pandemics?” Interview of Mr Felino Palafox, Jr. on ANC’s TV show “Market Edge”. Retrieved from ttps://youtu.be/Va5I1fXYK-w[2] Palafox, Felino A. Jr. (19 March 2020). “Silver lining: Lessons to learn”. The Manila Times. https://www.manilatimes.net/2020/03/19/opinion/columnists/silver-lining-lessons-to-learn/704158/ [3] Palafox, Felino A. Jr. (23 April 2020). “Frontliners”. The Manila Times. Retrieved from https://www.manilatimes.net/2020/04/23/opinion/columnists/frontliners-2/717480/

Commentary

Philippine Resources - April 27, 2020

Hope Amidst the Challenges in the Time of Corona

The Philippines is currently facing one of the greatest challenges to its economy with the implementation of containment measures brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. The enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) imposed by President Duterte was extended to May 15 on areas deemed still at high risk that includes the National Capital Region and nearby provinces in central and southern Luzon, considered the major business hubs of the country. There is no definite date in sight yet for the lifting of the lockdown and opening up the economy, as the government focuses on containing the virus and bringing the infection rate to lower levels. Premature lifting of the lockdown may have dire consequences as a second wave of infections could lead to a bigger toll on the economy.THE ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office slashed its 2020 gross domestic product growth forecast for the Philippines to 0.2%, warning that containing the virus should be the country’s top priority. Meanwhile, the National Economic and Development Agency said they are still “calculating” the economic impact of the 15-day lockdown-extension for high risk areas.Oil Markets in TurmoilThe outbreak also threw the oil market into turmoil and sent the sector into free fall. Wood Mackenzie reported that strategies to contain the spread of Covid-19, such as limiting people's movement, have directly lowered oil demand. Compounding these challenging conditions, the OPEC+ group, made up of OPEC and its leading allies including Russia, failed to agree on a concerted action to cut oil production to stabilize prices. Crude oil's recent collapse into negative prices was a clear indication of the scarcity of storage space for oil and the market's way of warning producers to stop pumping. Meanwhile, oil demand is set to fall even further as additional measures are put in place to limit the spread of Covid-19 putting strong downward pressure on prices. Major consumers like the shipping. aviation, and manufacturing industries are also facing challenges on their own contributing to the dampening demand for oil.Revenues and cash flow will collapse for oil-producing companies and countries including Russia and many Middle East countries,. If low prices are sustained, high-cost producers will exit the market and one of them is the US shale oil industry. Less money will be available for investments and companies will delay new projects and cut expenditures at existing operations. While the Philippines may benefit from low oil prices because it is a major importer, upstream activities will see a downtrend because of high capital cost particularly exploration and development in the West Philippine Sea. Nevertheless, now is the best time to negotiate gas supply agreements for natural gas-fired power plants.Long-term Shifts in Global Supply Chains From national lockdowns to closed airspace and borders, Covid-19 has resulted in unprecedented disruption to the mechanics of most economies. Oxford Business Group said the erection of these barriers has placed a major strain on the world’s supply chains, including essential linkages relating to food and medicines.While shocks may result in short-term changes to supply chains, some evidence points to the likelihood that the current pandemic may lead to more long-lasting structural shifts. China could lose its central position in many global supply networks because of the pandemic shutdown and US-China trade war, to Brazil, Mexico and certain emerging markets in Southeast Asia. Oxford Business reported that Covid-19 has accelerated the trend of US companies looking to realign supply chains closer to home in countries such as Mexico, while also diversifying them to reduce future exposure risk by relocating to ASEAN states like Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. Japanese companies are also reported to be relocating their supply chains to southeast Asia. However, the Philippines is way below the list of preference because the of infrastructure issues and the high prices of utilities.Cash Remittances Expected to DeclineCash remittances are expected to decline this year, as Filipinos living and working abroad face massive layoffs due to the global economic slowdown caused by Covid-19. Filipino workers particularly from Europe, USA and the Middle East are expected to remit less if not return home because of the economic downturn in the countries where they are employed. Also Filipino seafarers working in transportation and cruise ships will also have limited employment opportunities because of the downturn in the transshipment of goods and travel. Nomura Global Research said that the Philippines, the world’s fourth largest remittance recipient in 2018 according to World Bank data, is likely to suffer the most among remittance markets. Remittance inflows to the Philippines accounted for 9.9% of GDP in 2019. Historically, remittances had withstood previous economic crises and has continued to record growth despite challenging situations. Analysts have flagged that a drop in remittances could have a spillover effect on consumption, a key segment of the Philippine economy, accounting for 70% of its gross domestic product.Build Build Build to ContinueAs the government imposed a Luzon-wide ECQ, construction activities were also put to a halt. Originally, the government plans to spend over ₱1 trillion this year on various infrastructure construction projects to fill the country's needs for longer and wider roads, convenient train systems, and bigger airports and seaports. That plan may now be needed to be scaled down. President Duterte is open to dropping infrastructure projects scheduled this year to free up funds for Covid-19 response. Duterte is also thinking of selling government assets to generate more cash.However, Finance Secretary Dominguez remarked that the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program will push through despite the reallocation of around ₱30 billion of its budget towards COVID-19 facilities. He said that the program — which includes 100 big-ticket priority projects — will not be downgraded as it is being counted on as the "fuel" for the local economy to bounce back. On his part, Sec. Mark Villar is confident that the Department of Public Works and Highways will still be able to complete its infrastructure projects despite the lockdown. Meanwhile, Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade said that construction will resume for the railway projects. Tugade explained that the Inter-Agency Task Force tasked to implement the ECQ has allowed the DOTr to continue work on several railway projects. He acknowledged, however that some airport, seaport, and terminal projects may be postponed or delayed, as the government has diverted funds to fight the Covid-19 threat.The State of Real EstateThe Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation has suspended the operations of all Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) due to the ECQ imposed in Luzon. According to Colliers, the suspension of POGO operations and the imposition of travel restrictions on workers to and from China will likely result in delayed expansion among these companies and put a dent in office space take-up. Colliers however believes that the traditional and outsourcing firms could bridge the demand gap left by POGOs once market sentiment improves in the second half of 2020. According to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, the government is currently evaluating a proposal to allow POGOs to resume operations. However, the expansion of POGOs from 2020 to 2021 hinges also on the lifting of travel restrictions.The Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines has advised outsourcing companies to implement flexible work arrangements to prevent the further spread of Covid-19. Meanwhile, the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) has allowed information technology enterprises to adopt work-from-home arrangements without prior approval from PEZA. Alternative work arrangements would embolden traditional and outsourcing companies to accelerate adoption of technology and further explore implementing flex-and-core strategies that comprise a mix of traditional office and flexible workspace. Colliers advised that firms should effectively communicate cloud computing strategies to their employees to minimize disruptions from the abrupt switch to remote working.Colliers also sees residential demand in Metro Manila softening in 2020. If the virus is contained in the first half, we may see market sentiment improving starting the third quarter and a recovery in demand and supply in 2021. Among the major concerns for the residential sector are unemployment, business and consumer confidence, and OFW remittance inflows. On the supply side, the work stoppage due to ECQ will delay project completions.Colliers also believes that social distancing will likely be part of the “new normal”. A significant number of retail shops are still likely to be closed by the time the ECQ is lifted but these brick-and-mortar retailers may tap the demand by expanding their online presence. Retailers may create their own e-commerce sites, utilize existing sites of major mall operators, or use popular social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. Consumers may prefer to buy online than go to the mall.Living in the “New Normal”In an online seminar, Ateneo Center for Economic Research and Development Director Alvin P. Ang said that even with the lifting of the ECQ, the following “new normal” will continue to be observed: no gathering of more than 10 people, physical distancing, wearing protective accessories like masks and gloves when going out, waiting time in public places, and working from home. Financial, power, water, and Internet services will be in high demand. Basic mobility and online delivery services will also be needed to ensure that Filipinos will be able to get their basic food and non-food needs. Businesses that will boom post Covid-19 include digital marketing services such as website development and social-media presence, apps development, business-process outsourcing, video conferencing, digital consultation platforms, and basic skills and do-it-yourself learning services and webinars offered online. Online platforms for gaming and entertainment will also thrive. The pandemic has expedited the arrival of the app economy especially for online banking and money transfers. The World Health Organization, however, warned that hackers and cyber scammers are taking advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic by sending fraudulent emails and WhatsApp messages that attempt to trick people into clicking on malicious links or opening attachments.ConclusionThe moment we realized the full catastrophic implications of the Covid-19 pandemic was the time our individual world stopped. We will not see the light at the end of the tunnel unless a vaccine is formulated. But even then, we may have to brace ourselves for another lethal viral outbreak. The good news is that while we are in the midst of our quarantine, there are dramatic changes in online technology developing at breakneck speed. We can adapt to and even flourish under the new normal if we can work out the right experience and business model. There is no turning back now.Fernando “Ronnie” S. Penarroyo specializes in Energy and Resources Law, Project Finance and Business Development. He may be contacted at fspenarroyo@gmail.com for any matters or inquiries in relation to the Philippine resources industry. Feel free to follow Atty. Penarroyo on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/fernando-s-penarroyo-2b8a7312/)

Commentary

Philippine Resources - April 13, 2020

I Remember Senior Brod Jun Factoran

By: Fernando “Ronnie” S. PenarroyoLast 05 April 2020, former Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Fulgencio “Jun” Factoran, Jr. died from a lingering illness at the age of 76. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Humanities (cum laude) and Bachelor of Laws from the University of the Philippines (valedictorian, 1967), and his Master of Laws degree from the Harvard Law School. He was a bar topnotcher and a member of the Sigma Rho fraternity, the same UP Law-based fraternity I belong to.Because of his impeccable academic credentials, Senior Brod Jun was recruited for membership in what was then known as the "Salas Boys” - bright, idealistic young men who worked for the government under the tutelage of Rafael Montinola Salas. Salas served as executive secretary to President Ferdinand Marcos prior to Martial Law until a falling-out on policy differences prompted Salas’ resignation from the Marcos government. Salas then became the first head of the United Nations Population Fund when the agency was created in 1969. The “Salas Boys” imbibed the idealism, honesty, integrity, and spirit of public service that Salas was known for.Senior Brod Jun was active during the Martial Law years as a human rights lawyer and co-founder of Mabini, or the Movement of Attorneys for Brotherhood, Integrity, and Nationalism Inc. With the fall of the Marcos government, Factoran served as deputy executive secretary under President Corazon Aquino from 1986 to 1987. He subsequently became DENR Secretary from 1987 to 1992.I first met Senior Brod Jun Factoran when I started in the mining industry as a young lawyer working for an Australian company. At that time he already left government service and set up his law firm, Factoran and Associates, and environmental consultancy firm, Gaia South, which our company retained. We connected immediately as we were fraternity brothers.I always look forward going to his office to have our regular meetings. My Australian colleagues have had high regards for Senior Brod Jun as he was well-versed not only in mining and environmental law but in other branches of resources law as well. He patiently mentored me in Philippine resources law explaining to me in great detail the nooks and crannies of various DENR administrative orders and issuances on mining, environment, forestry and protected areas. I will fondly remember on the day before I was to leave for secondment to our head office in Melbourne, he sent one big bilao of pancit (fried rice noodles) to the office as a sort of despedida, which was happily shared by all the office staff. It was a simple gesture but you know that he did it with all sincerity.After my one year secondment in Australia, I returned to the Philippines and my first order of battle was the constitutional challenge filed by Marvic Leonen against the 100% foreign-owned Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement of my company (La Bugal-B’laan Tribal Assn. vs. Ramos). Senior Brod Jun was engaged to spearhead the defense. He assembled a battery of some of the best constitutional law experts of the country. He called on former 1986 Constitutional Commission member Fely Arroyo and former Acting Executive Secretary and Court of Appeals Justice Magdangal Elma. The litigation teams of Sycip Salazar and Quisumbing Torres were also on board the defense team. I saw firsthand how Senior Brod Jun managed to coordinate and handle the high-profile lawyers and prepare the defense like a maestro adeptly conducting an orchestra.Much has been said about Senior Brod Jun’s human rights advocacy. But to my mind, his greatest contribution is in the field of indigenous peoples’ rights. During his stint as DENR Secretary, he worked for its recognition which culminated in IP rights to be more explicitly acknowledged in 1993, with the issuance of the (DENR) Administrative Order No. 2 (DAO 2). DAO 2 allowed for the delineation of ancestral domains and the issuance to indigenous communities of Certificates of Ancestral Domain Claims and Certificates of Ancestral Land Claims. DAO 2 ultimately paved the way for the eventual passage of the Indigenous Peoples Rights of 1997. Now IPs must give their free and prior informed consent on any projects in their ancestral domain and are entitled to royalties from the revenue of resources companies.Forestry was another of Senior Brod Jun’s advocacy. He contributed to the promotion of the ideals of community-based resource management through the rules and regulations pertinent to Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM) issued under his authority. CBFM is a program of the government to encourage reforestation and sustainable management of forests. Under a CBFM agreement, a community is entitled to develop and use a forest area and its resources for twenty (25) years. Senior Brod Jun, in his capacity as DENR Secretary was named as respondent in the case of Oposa vs. Factoran (1993), a landmark decision of the Philippine Supreme Court, which recognizes the doctrine of intergenerational responsibility and a contributor to the development of international environmental law. He encouraged the petitioners, through their parents, to enjoin the DENR Secretary from issuing timber licenses, invoking their right to a healthy environment pursuant to Sections 15 and 16 of Article II of the 1987 Constitution. Intergenerational equity in economic, psychological, and sociological contexts, is the concept or idea of fairness or justice between generations currently living and generations yet to be born. After the case was decided, it paved the way for the Philippine government to create an inventory of the remnant old growth forests and restricted logging in those areas. Because of his standing in the civil society movement and his experience as environment secretary, Senior Brod Jun was appointed as an independent director in mining firms such as Atlas Consolidated Mining and Nickel Asia. He also brought his management skills and legal experience to government corporations and entities like the National Electrification Administration, Philippine National Oil Company, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, Development Academy of the Philippines, and Government Service Insurance System.The last time I saw Senior Brod Jun was during the launching of Senior Brod Rick Ricamora’s (2016) documentary portfolio Blood, Sweat, Hope and Quiapo at the Ayala Museum. He personally introduced me to another senior brod in attendance, the distinguished mining tycoon, Manny Zamora, Chairman of Nickel Asia Corporation. We talked mostly about the mining and energy industry. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a souvenir photo for posterity with two captains of industry.I will surely miss Senior Brod Jun. It’s rather unfortunate that he passed away at this time of Covid-19 pandemic, we could have given the man the accolades due him. Whatever his political inclination was, I hope that this humble tribute will enshrine his memory in the halls of national statesmen. He was certainly one of Sigma Rho’s greatest gifts to the country.Fernando “Ronnie” S. Penarroyo specializes in Energy and Resources Law, Project Finance and Business Development. He may be contacted at fspenarroyo@gmail.com for any matters or inquiries in relation to the Philippine resources industry. Feel free to follow Atty. Penarroyo on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/fernando-s-penarroyo-2b8a7312/)

Commentary

Philippine Resources - April 09, 2020

Expo Industry Facing the Crisis Head On

The crisis brought by the COVID-19 pandemic opens the question on how the business sector would respond to the changes this global concern may bring to the economy in the coming months. This is a case where no exemption is given. Businesses, big or small are all dealing with the crisis day by day. For an industry which relies on mass gatherings as part of its lifeblood, the adjustments may not be that easy. Worldbex Services International (WSI), the country’s premiere events organizer, had to postpone some of its major events this year. Even with its banner events at stake including the 25th year celebration of WORLDBEX and the 16th Manila International Auto Show, an event organizer’s priority is the health and safety of its stakeholders, attendees, and employees over anything else. BUILT TO WITHSTAND CHALLENGESThis is not the first time the industry faced a struggle which forced expo organizers to re-evaluate their strategy. Looking back at the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the local MICE Industry was challenged. One notable action was done by WSI wherein foreign exhibitors withdrew from the event which pushed the organizer to make a quick and careful decision to further strengthen its local exhibitors’ line-up. The shift in their game plan gained overwhelming support from the industry players up until today. RESPONSE TO CRISISIt has always been the company’s strength to spearhead a platform where businesses can find solutions and opportunities through introduction into new industry connections. With the same foundation, they are already looking into potential scenarios on how expos can address the issues businesses may encounter after the crisis as a way of staying competitive and innovative. Nonetheless, WSI also believes that the focus should all be given to every effort to flatten the curve. In relation, the organizers are proud and honored with the dedication given by PICC and World Trade Center Metro Manila, their second homes, as these venues serve a different purpose to further help the country in solving the crisis. Through the leadership of DPWH Sec. Mark Villar, the transition and conversion of the said venues are being completed ahead of schedule. Once everything is in a more manageable state, they commit to uphold its goal in helping businesses to bounce back with several innovative solutions already waiting in the pipeline for their upcoming events.BEYOND EXPOSITIONSThe private sector as key industry players in driving the economy as the Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, Exhibitions (MICE) Industry has been a strategic area for boosting tourism and contributes to the country’s gross domestic product.An expo is more than just a showcase. In a time where businesses aim to regain momentum, expos can help kick-start a brand or a product’s action plan. As the game changes and a “new normal” might begin, means and ways may change but the mission will always be the same. The uncertainty of a crisis can’t hold back the Filipino entrepreneur’s spirit. We are resilient when faced with adversity, we adapt to the surroundings, and we always find ways to make things work. We will continue to work and improve as our way of giving back to society. True enough, even with a crisis at hand, we are able to create opportunities beyond expositions.

Commentary

Philippine Resources - February 20, 2020

Resiliency and sustainability through geoscience

By Marcelle P. VillegasGeoCon was first organised in 1988 as a venue where the latest development in geosciences are shared and discussed. Each year, new ideas and fresh perspectives are presented through technical reports and exhibits. What is the importance of GEOCON in the Philippines? Since it is a conference where great minds in the field of geosciences gather to discuss, debate or collaborate for continued learning, the event then brings to light solutions to national problems that science can solve.Last December, the Geological Society of the Philippines (GSP) presented GEOCON 2019 with the theme “Geoscience for a resilient and sustainable Philippines”. The two-day conference was held at The Manila Hotel last 4-5 December 2019.Dr. Renato U. Solidum, Jr., Chairperson of GeoCon 2019, gave the welcome remarks on the Day 1 of the conference. He is also Department of Science and Technology Undersecretary for Disaster Risk Reduction -- Climate Change Adaptation. Dr Solidum is also the Officer-In-Charge of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.Although GeoCon 2019 took place a month before the Taal Volcano Eruption (12 January 2020), Dr. Solidum’s message was regarding readiness in case of natural calamities. “The theme of this year’s GeoCon… should jolt us and remind us of our collective obligation as geoscientists to convey to the most vulnerable sectors of our society the imminent dangers of geological hazards. This is a herculean task which all of us, because of our specialized training, can help achieve.”He said, “We should join hands and we must zero in our common efforts in educating and empowering our people so that they will become more resilient to natural disasters.”Dr. Carla B. Dimalanta, President of GSP, stated, “2019 has also been an extremely challenging one for our country, particularly on matters where the geosciences are central to the issues. Geohazards and resource use conflicts, most especially, continue to cause significant disruptions to the lives and livelihoods of Filipinos. From the water shortages in Metro Manila during the dry months, to the large-scale landslides and floods in Luzon and the Visayas in the rainy periods, and the unusual earthquakes in Mindanao, GeoCon 2019’s theme brings to focus what we, as geoscientists, have done and must further do to contribute to building a resilient and progressive country.”Dr. Dimalanta expressed that there are many changes in the regional and global perspectives which affect the decisions on natural resource use, environmental design and management, and geohazards risk reduction. She also mentioned the urgent need to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). “[With] barely two years left for the current national government administration, we the country’s geoscientists must assert our relevance in delivering SDG targets. The Geological Society of the Phils., as a collegial body of experts in the various fields of earth sciences, is best poised to address concerns pertaining to the following SDGs: SDG 6: clean water and sanitation, SDG 7: affordable and clean energy, SDG 9: industry innovation and infrastructure, SDG 11: sustainable cities and communities, SDG 14 and 15: life below water and on land, and most importantly SDG 17: partnerships for the goals.”The keynote speaker for Day 1 was Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon of the National Economic Development and Authority (NEDA).The Undersecretary discussed the three key points in her speech: 1) economic and social impact of the disaster on the country 2) the new ecosystems for science, technology, and innovation 3) the challenge with the science community, including the geoscience community.She stated, “The Philippine economy is currently on a high growth trajectory. So at the beginning of 2012, our growth rate has been upward by 6%. We could actually have grown much faster were it not for the damage and losses due to the typhoons and other natural calamities. The UN estimates that we lose about 0.8% of GDP every year due to the combined impact of disasters.”NEDA Undersecretary mentioned that the cost for evacuation and spending in managing an evacuation center is an added expense. When there are natural calamities, loss of productivity happens which in turn brings about the loss of income per day. Other factors that affect and hinder income and productivity are loss of lives, destruction of cultural heritage sites or buildings, and more. These events bring insecurities among Filipinos because during a natural calamity, they are subjected to various threats in their livelihood.In contrast, the Undersecretary presented some good news which is in light of “the new ecosystem for science and technology, innovation".“To be fair, we had been improving towards progress with regards to how we had been addressing climate shocks. In fact, we are the only country with an institutionalised response mechanism [or Institutional Mechanisms for Disaster Response] which includes preparedness measures.”"We have also completed a number of high-resolution geohazard maps.""For the last seven years, the economic growth remains above 6%. With our already released Q3 growth, the Philippines is actually second in terms of economic growth compared to Vietnam 7.3% and even higher than China 6.0%. So our economy has been steadily growing and it is our goal to sustain this momentum in the coming years, and uphold the Philippines' standing as one of the fastest growing economies in Asia.”Undersecretary Edillon added, “And to be able to sustain this growth, science, technology and innovation have been identified and prioritised not only as a catalyst to exponentially grow our economy but also as a solution to minimize environmental impacts, efficiently use our natural resources, and build our resilience.”“I've got a piece of good news. In 2019, the Global Innovation Index, which measures the performance of countries in terms of innovations like technological advancements, the Philippines jumped 19 notches, ranking 54th which marks the biggest leap amongst Southeast Asian countries and we ranked 5th behind Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand.”Later during the day, the other topics and studies presented were: “Re-opening new paths for the Philippines’ search for energy independence” by Arthur Saldivar-Sali, “Paving a new landscape in risk valuation: The GeoRisk Philippines initiative” by Mabelline Cahulogan, “The October 2019 earthquake sequence: Parameters and impacts” by Jeffrey Perez, and more.

Commentary

Philippine Resources - February 20, 2020

Are Buildings Bad for the Environment?

By Marcelle P. VillegasHave you ever lived in a neighborhood where the house beside you is under construction? Occasionally, you will hear loud noises and the air is filled with heavy fumes and industrial dust particles. This is a typical scenario from a construction site. You are lucky if your neighbor is building a small house and construction activities happen during daytime. Imagine living in a place where you are surrounded by multiple constructions of skyscrapers, and building operation happens 24/7.In this fast-paced, modern world, the presence of high-rise buildings is often seen as indicators of progress. Although constructions are intended to make life better on this planet, Bill Gates presented an alternative view in his article “Building Boom: Buildings are bad for the climate”. [1]“Besides the traffic and the weather, we Seattleites love to talk about all the construction going on in our city. The downtown skyline is full of cranes, and it seems like the building never stops. By the end of the year, 39 new projects will have been completed in downtown Seattle alone, and there are plans for more than 100 others to be finished in the next two years,” Gates wrote.Other than Seattle, the same scenario happens in other places in the world. He stated that the rise in global population causes urban areas around the world to boom. Thus more buildings are being built rapidly. He predicted, “By one estimate, the world will add 2 trillion square feet of buildings by 2060—the equivalent of putting up another New York City every month for the next 40 years.” [1]This statistics is both good and bad. Gates mentioned that “living in the city generally equates to a higher quality of life” where everyone can enjoy the benefits of having better schools, health care and job opportunities. “The bad news is that the buildings themselves are a big contributor to climate change, and one of the five areas where we need to drive a lot of innovation if we’re going to avoid a climate disaster,” said Gates.Solving the problem of building emissions is important in protecting the environment. Buildings are responsible for greenhouse gases, first during construction stage. “Buildings are made of concrete and steel, both of which produce a lot of emissions when they’re being made. In fact, these two materials account for around 10 percent of the world’s annual greenhouse gases. And right now, we don’t have practical ways to make either one without releasing carbon dioxide.” [1]Gates mentioned a company called Boston Metal who is developing ways to make zero-carbon steel using electricity instead of coal. Another company, CarbonCure has a smart approach in injecting carbon dioxide into concrete. Both companies are funded by Breakthrough Energy Ventures (or BEV), a $1 billion fund led by Bill Gates which aims to support these kinds of technologies. BEV was founded in 2016 and the fund’s pursuits are supported by Reliance’s Mukesh Ambani, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son, former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg, Virgin’s Richard Branson, and Alibaba’s Jack Ma. [2]After a building is made, it continues to contribute to climate change with its ongoing operations. “It’s natural to think of lights and appliances like TVs as the biggest energy hogs, but they’re not: It’s actually heating and cooling. If you live in a typical American home, your air conditioner is the biggest consumer of electricity you own—more than your lights or refrigerator.”Moreover, he said, “Worldwide, there are 1.6 billion A/C units in use. And that number will skyrocket as the world gets richer, more populous, and hotter; by 2050, there will be more than 5 billion A/Cs in operation.”Other than air conditioning, the use of heaters is another issue. Most heaters run on electricity while others run on fossil fuels (like oil and natural gas). “The best solution—from a climate point of view—is to electrify as much as we can (again, while decarbonizing the power grid) and supply the rest with zero-carbon fuels, like hydrogen fuels or advanced biofuels. Right now, though, these alternatives cost two to three times more than conventional fuels, so we’ll need a lot of innovation to make them more affordable.”Gates mentioned some innovative technologies that could help buildings use energy more efficiently. He cited the use of “smart glass” for windows which automatically turns darker when the room needs to be cooler, and it turns lighter when it needs to be warmer.“And BEV has invested in a company called 75F, which uses wireless sensors to measure temperature, humidity, darkness, and other factors and then uses the information to adjust heating, cooling, and lights. They’ve found that this system can cut a building’s energy use by 50 percent,” according to Gates.Most counties have adopted the use of certifications for product safety and quality. However, do these labels reveal how much energy it can save or the amount of greenhouse gas emission is it responsible for? Often, these certifications cannot provide such information or guarantees.This is where a tool called EC3 can help out. EC3 stands for Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator. This is an easy-to-use tool that allows benchmarking, assessment and reductions in embodied carbon, and “focuses on the upfront supply chain emissions of construction materials”. [3]EC3 can tell us how much carbon was used to produce steel, cement, and other materials made by companies that volunteer in providing this information. “This data will be even more important in the years ahead; right now, 80 to 90 percent of emissions come from running the building over its lifetime, but as we use cleaner sources of electricity and make buildings more efficient, the emissions from construction materials will represent a larger share of the total.”“Finally, we can strengthen our building codes to ensure that buildings are designed to be not only energy efficient, but built with low-carbon materials. Unfortunately, some rules actually make it hard to use these materials. For example, if you want to put concrete in a building, the building code might define the precise chemical composition of the cement you can use in it. But that standard may rule out low-emissions cement, even if it performs just as well as the conventional kind.”“Obviously, no one wants to see buildings and bridges collapsing because we relaxed our codes too much. But we can make sure the standards reflect the latest advances in technology, and the urgency of getting to zero emissions.”Reference:[1] Gates, Bill (28 Oct. 2019). “Building Boom: Buildings are bad for the climate”. Gates Notes - The Blog of Bill Gates. Retrieved from - https://www.gatesnotes.com/Energy/Buildings-are-good-for-people-and-bad-for-the-climate[2] Rathi, Akshat (26 Aug. 2019) “Bill Gates-led $1 billion fund expands its portfolio of startups fighting climate change”. Quartz. Retrieved from - https://qz.com/1693546/breakthrough-energy-ventures-expands-its-portfolio-to-19-startups/[3] Retrieved from - https://www.buildingtransparency.org/en/

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Commentary

Philippine Resources - February 20, 2020

Rolly Peña: The Revolutionary as a Geologist

In the morning of 04 December 2018, I received numerous text and viber messages from friends and colleagues from the tight-knit geoscience community informing me that Edwin Domingo, former Department of Environment and Natural Resources (“DENR”) Asst. Secretary, urgently wanted to get in touch with me. I thought that it might be a client referral. I was able to call Edwin and indeed he has a case for me. To my surprise, it was about Rolly Peña. A few days before, the community was abuzz with the news of Rolly’s tragic death from an accident involving a passing Grab motorcycle along a dark spot in Quezon Avenue. Edwin asked if I could volunteer to serve as legal counsel for Rolly’s daughter, Sybil Jade, in her forthcoming meeting with Grab. Edwin said that Dr. Manoling Ramos, a close friend and fraternity brother of Rolly, would be coordinating with me as Sybil, who was based in Germany as a doctor working for Médecins Sans Frontières(Doctors Without Borders), has yet to arrived in Manila for her father’s funeral services.I whole-heartedly took on the opportunity to assist pro bono as my humble contribution to Rolly’s enduring legacy to the geoscience community. I have worked with him professionally on several occasions and considered him a stalwart in the resources industry. As fate would have it, I personally knew a high ranking executive in Grab and called him immediately. My friend in Grab was fully aware of the accident and he mentioned that his company was at that time trying to reach out to the nearest family member of Rolly. I disclosed that I was legally representing Rolly’s daughter and we discussed Grab’s offer of financial assistance.I made arrangements for Sybil and I to meet with the Grab representative during the necrological service for Rolly at the National Institute of Geological Sciences (“NIGS”) in the afternoon of 06 December 2018. The meeting between Sybil and the Grab representative was initially frosty because while Sybil was obviously mourning the lost of her father, the Grab representative appeared to her as perfunctory in the discussions. To ease the tension, everybody decided to continue with the discourse after the memorial services.When we continued our meeting, the Grab representative upon witnessing and hearing the eulogies given by Rolly’s friends, comrades, and colleagues, broke down into inconsolable tears. She was given a perspective on who Rolly was from the testimonials, his contribution to science and heroic struggle to fight for the oppressed. The parties finally came to an agreement and Sybil decided that she would use the assistance as seed money to preserve her father’s legacy.Fast forward a year after, I attended the Christmas party of the University of the Philippines Geology Alumni Association held at the NIGS. I again saw Sybil and this time she was signing dedications on books. The book was a memoir of her father detailing his experiences in the Philippine communist revolutionary movement as an activist, guerrilla and political exile in China during the Martial Law years. It also contained poignant letters that Rolly wrote to Sybil when he resurfaced to the mainstream after leaving the underground movement. The last part includes a compilation of eulogies given during the necrological rites, newspaper editorials by colleagues, and articles written by people whose lives were touched by Rolly.“Crossings - Portrait of a Revolutionary”In the book, Rolando (“Rolly” or “Rol" to his close friends) Peña was variously described as a friend, mentor, comrade, linguist fluent in French and Mandarin, leftist propagandist, art and film lover, walking dictionary and encyclopedia, audiophile, bibliophile, poetry aficionado, rare book collector, lover of women, and supporter of women’s rights. Most of all, he was an affectionate father to Sybil despite growing up in Rolly’s absence.After graduating with a geology degree from the UP College of Arts and Science in 1962 and placing third in the board exams, he worked as a geologist at the then Bureau of Mines. He juggled work and political activism, and put up newsletters for the underground left as an alternative to government-sanctioned newspapers. He was instrumental in setting up the “Liberation”, the propaganda mouthpiece of the communist movement.Rolly finally joined the armed struggle and was tasked by Jose Maria Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (“CPP”) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (“NPA”), to do an important mission. At that time, China was exporting its proletarian revolution and sending arms to Third World countries that embraced the leftist ideology. Rolly, who was presumed to know navigation as he was a geologist, was entrusted to lay the course for the MV Karagatan, a wooden hulled boat consigned to smuggle arms from Fukien, China to the Philippines in 1972. However, the arms landing was intercepted by the Philippine military in Palanan, Isabela and Rolly became a fugitive.Despite the refusal of Deng Xiao Ping to fund further arms shipment to the Philippines, Chinese leader Mao Zedong approved a second arms landing in 1974, this time aboard the ship MV Andrea. The ship, again helmed by Rolly, hit the Pratas reef somewhere between Hong Kong and Taiwan. After the beleaguered crew was rescued, the Filipinos including Rolly, were brought to Hong Kong, spent some time in jail, and ultimately sought political asylum in China.Rolly called his group of asylum seekers as the “Dirty Dozen.” During their sojourn in China, the group engaged in a wide array of military training and political indoctrination laid out by the Chinese communist party leaders. Their activities included naval warfare, revolutionary historical site visits, political studies in the Marx-Lenin-Mao thought, medicine involving surgery and acupuncture, Chinese language studies, fishing, integration with the peasants in state farms and communes, infrastructure, and factory work. Rolly was also able to get the approval of the Chinese government to work as a geologist in the Shinjiang oilfields to hone his scientific knowledge while in exile. Interestingly, Rolly already wrote about the brewing rift among the political exiles because of their disparate opinions on the leadership of the revolutionary movement they left behind. Amidst this internal strife, Rolly did his best to remain neutral. He was sent back to the Philippines in 1981 to continue his work in the armed struggle.Back to the MainstreamRolly left the underground revolutionary movement in 1992. On his decision to leave the armed struggle, he wrote:“Anyway, by 1992, I was feeling that I had no sense of achievement, and I decided to come out and get into something that was intellectually stimulating, where I could still learn something and apply a little learning to some ‘earthly’ problems.”It was the late Dr. Raymundo Punongbayan, former director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology who was responsible for his return to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (“MGB”). He went back to the same job and position that he left when he joined the NPA, and wrote that he “still go to the mountains but to do fieldwork and research”.He was seconded by the MGB in 1995 to work as a Technical Assistant on Mining Matters to DENR Secretary Victor O. Ramos. It was during this time that I met Rolly when I was working then as a newbie lawyer for Western Mining Corporation’s Tampakan Copper Project (“WMC”). WMC was a Melbourne-based Australian major mining house, which held a Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement granted by the Philippine government. Rolly was our go-to guy and liaison at the DENR when we wanted to set an important meeting with either the DENR Secretary or the MGB Director. In fact my former boss at WMC, Project President Terence Gardner, fondly referred to Rolly as “the ghost who walks” because he was like a specter lurking in the shadows in our dealings with the DENR/MGB. He was a quiet presence but surely a strong influence in the mining bureaucracy.Following the Marcopper mine accident in 1995, the DENR to address the growing public opposition to mining, decided to review and revised the implementing rules of the Mining Act of 1995. Representing WMC’s interests, I got involved in the process and attended the country-wide public consultations on the proposed Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Mining Act. In August and September of 1996, I joined Rolly and other DENR/MGB officials in stakeholder meetings in Baguio City, Cebu City, Davao City, and Manila.Despite Rolly’s background, he was a staunch advocate of the Mining Act. However he wrote in his book that he was torn between his advocacy for responsible mining as a bureaucrat and the leftist ideology that was against the so called “development aggression” and exploitation of resource companies particularly the foreign mining firms. He narrated an event that I myself witnessed during a public consultation held at the UP College of Law:“The leftist groups (Bayan and affiliates) were there but did not stay. They had placards, streamers and blistering statements for the repeal of the Mining Act. What we set out to do was to make it more responsive to the community and the environment. They don’t realize that if the Mining Act is repealed, we will go back to the old laws which are so worse.”“But then I realized that they just have to take a hard stance, make denunciations, without really thinking of the consequences. But the NGOs which want a better deal for the community, for the indigenous peoples, the environment, did make proposals, many of which we have adopted. For some proposals, we just had to arrive at a middle ground since the mining industry would balk at them. Being in the government agency concerned with this matter, I find myself caught between the industry and NGOs. Still the demands of NGOs (except the extremists”) are easier to address than industry, especially foreign companies who count their dollars and want everything opened to them. This time, we are asking the industry to get the informed consent of the concerned indigenous people and communities before a permit is granted.”It must have been extremely difficult for Rolly to transition from an anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist ideologue to a government bureaucrat promoting investments in natural resources extraction to both local and foreign companies. Rolly did perform well in the bureaucracy and was eventually promoted to MGB Regional Director in 1999, a position he held till his retirement in 2006. In the meantime, Rolly finished his Master of Science in Geology degree from UP NIGS in 1998, a course he started way back in 1966 that was abruptly discontinued when he went underground.Despite his prominent and active role in the mining industry, Rolly maintained friendly ties with his former comrades who were deeply divided into two hostile factions - the “Rejectionists” and the “Reaffirmists.” The division among the leftists groups happened in 1993 when Armando Liwanag — believed to be the nom de guerre of CPP founder Jose Maria Sison — issued a document in 1991 called “Reaffirm Our Basic Principles and Carry the Revolution Forward!”. The document sought to return the CPP to its founding principles of characterizing Philippine society as “semi-colonial and semi-feudal” and the waging of a protracted people’s war in the countryside to topple the government in accordance with the Marxist-Leninist-Mao Zedong thought.Those who supported the document were called “Reaffirmists” while those who refused to accept it were called the “Rejectionists”, who advocated for less ideological rigidity and more openness towards other forms of political struggle, such as legal and parliamentary participation thus relegating the armed struggle to the backdrop. Many “Rejectionists” civil society activists joined the non governmental organization (“NGO”) sector, which expanded in the early 1990s due to both the massive influx of foreign funding and the readiness of successive post-Marcos governments to accommodate more moderate and reformist civil society groups.The NGO sector was prominent in its opposition to the promotion of the mining industry as a development strategy by the Philippine government. They either actively opposed the Mining Act of 1995, clamored for strict provisions in the implementing rules and regulations making it difficult for companies to work under the present legal and administrative framework, or lobbied for a more “nationalistic” mining legislation devoid of large-scale mining and foreign capital. They also actively pushed for the implementation of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 and encouraged local government units to veto mining and energy projects within their jurisdictions.Contribution to GeoscienceAfter serving as regional director, Rolly returned to UP, which provided him a laboratory at NIGS where he resumed research work and generously made himself available for consultation to the private industry and students of geology. It was at this stage in his life that he made an enormous contribution to geoscience.During his stint in the private sector, Rolly made two great contributions to the study of geology. He wrote the Lexicon of Philippine Stratigraphy (2008) and edited “The Geology and Mineral Resources of the Philippines” Volumes 1 & 2, Second Edition (2004). The Committee on Stratigraphic Nomenclature of which Rolly was Chairman, formed under the auspices of the Geological Society of the Philippines (“GSP”) helped Rolly finalize the Philippine Stratigraphic Guide while a committee of MGB geologists helped Rolly complete the Geology of the Philippines Volumes 1 & 2, Second Edition. The literatures became a bible of sorts for professionals and students of geology.Noe Caagusan, a good friend of Rolly since their UP days, fraternity brother, and fellow geologist, in a fitting tribute wrote a scholastic review:“While the compilers of the Geology of the Philippines (1981) succeeded in accounting for every bibliographer report, they also have unleashed a self-generative device that liberally established variant names of rock units, or even invalid nomenclatures that cluttered the stratigraphic column.”“Rolly sensed these superfluities, as he knew personally many of those who had written the geological reports where the Geology of the Philippines were culled. He was familiar with the parochial bias of many writers and their penchant for “updating’ formational definitions and appending a new name as well.”“Peña’s Lexicon identifies the geologic formations of various places in the Philippines based on layers (stratification) of rocks, their ages, evolution, and geologic events in hundreds of millions of years. Its deep data, both ancient and new, give historic numbers to corals, mountains, rock formations, seas, and volcanoes that tourists often describe as awesome, beautiful and unusual. It seeks to end the rampant and erroneous updating and renaming of Philippine rocks.”“The GOP Second Edition Peña edited is about rocks in the Philippines, their names, classification, genesis, histories and geochemistry or mineral contents. The first edition of the GOP Volumes 1 and 2 was based on work done by earlier generations of foreign and local geologists which Peña read when he worked as a petrologist in fieldworks that lasted six to eleven months a year, from the ‘60s to the ‘70s.”Benham RiseRolly worked and collaborated with a team of scientists from UP NIGS when the Republic of the Philippines filed its claim for Benham Rise in 2008 in compliance with the requirements of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Rolly was with a team that gathered hydrographic, geological, and geophysical data that showed that Benham Rise was part of the 350 mile-continental shelf that extended from the baseline of northeastern Philippines.The Philippine Government based its claim on Republic Act No. 9522, also known as the Archipelagic Baselines Law (2009), and asserted that on the basis of seismic and magnetic data and other geological features, the region is an extension of the Philippines’ continental shelf. This culminated in the full adoption of the Philippines’ submission for an extended continental shelf in the Benham Rise Region by the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf of the United Nations on 12 April 2012.Masungi GeoreserveRolly also conducted the study and research needed to jump start the heritage interest in the Masungi geological formation resulting in the establishment of the Masungi Georeserve, a conservation area situated in the Southern Sierra Madre range, in Baras, Rizal. The Masungi Georeserve is a nature reserve characterized by rugged limestone karst peaks, steep slopes, and surrounding lush montane rainforests. The georeserve received multiple international awards from the United Nations Biodiversity Program, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the United Nations World Tourism Organization. Rolly’s contribution not only involved lending his geologic expertise but also engaging with park rangers, the local community, schools, landscape architects, biologists, government representatives, and other stakeholders, which elevated Masungi as a global best case practice.Professional Interaction with RollyIt was during my presidency of the Geological Society of the Philippines (“GSP”) in 2017 when I had the chance to work closely with Rolly. At that time, Rolly was the Chair of the Board of Geology of the Professional Regulatory Commission, a positioned he assumed in 2015. During my term as GSP President, we were able to obtain the registration of GSP as the accredited integrated professional organization for geologists through the able assistance and endorsement of Rolly and the other members of the Board of Geology.I and my fellow officers and board members at GSP were amazed at the energy exhibited by Rolly in his many roles in GSP. Rolly was the editor of the scientific Journal of the GSP. In addition to being JGSP editor, Rolly also held several key positions such as Chair of the Geo-Heritage Committee and member of the Continuing Professional Development Council of the Board of Geology. He was also a qualified “competent person” for mineral exploration under the Philippine Mineral Reporting Code. We can always count on him in attending all the regular and special board meetings of GSP and consult with him on policy matters affecting the geology profession.Rolly was also the GSP’s permanent representative to the Regional Congress on Geology, Minerals, and Energy Resources of Southeast Asia (“GEOSEA”). GEOSEA aims to foster an exchange of ideas, experiences, results, information and cooperation in geology, minerals and energy resources in Southeast Asia, bringing together the experts from academia and industry all over the world.During my stint as GSP President, the Philippines applied and was chosen to host and organize the 2020 GEOSEA Congress in Manila. Rolly, who diligently attended the secretariat meetings, was instrumental in getting the nod of the geology associations from the other ASEAN member countries. The GEOSEA Congress, conducted every two years, is the “SEA games” of the ASEAN geoscientific community. The Philippines last hosted the GEOSEA Congress way back in 1995.The official Philippine delegation attended in full force the GEOSEA Congress in Hanoi, Vietnam in 2018 for the turn-over ceremonies. Representing the Philippines were our chief of delegation, Department of Science and Technology Undersecretary and Phivolcs Officer-in-charge, Renato Solidum with selected officers of GSP including myself and Rolly. During that congress, I was a witness on how Rolly was treated with respect and high esteem by our counterpart foreign experts.My Impression of RollyRolly shared some unmistaken similarities with a quirky law school professor. Behind the unassuming facade and quiet demeanor, he held a treasure trove of accumulated knowledge and street-smart experience, you could only unravel if you dared to ask the right questions and gained his familiarity through personal interaction. I’ve heard about his radical past but I only got to know his fascinating life story after I have read his book.From a generation not born of entitlement, Rolly possessed a patriotism that directed him to the only viable option for him to attain his ideals, the path of armed struggle. His road to revolution was the culmination of social unrests prevalent at that time, a fulmination of protests and mass actions whose catalyst was youth movements heightened by political consciousness in the early ‘60s. He took a storied route, initially joining underground cells while staying put in government service as part of the resistance, and ultimately embarking on the crucial decision of participating in the armed struggle.Perhaps the same innate courage and patriotism that brought him to the movement made him return to the mainstream. His idealism and aspiration to gratify his need for more scientific knowledge not for personal aggrandizement but for the common good, which for obvious reasons he was unable to pursue underground, finally made him resurface and join the government he sought to overthrow.Rolly was first and foremost, a geologist and a scientist, trained in critical inquiry in the rich tradition of creative, open-minded, empirical inquiry and evidence-based probing of nature’s secrets. Unfortunately in today’s settings, findings of science are now under siege from a variety of economic and political forces. These forces selectively dismiss, deny, and distort legitimate results of scientific research when such run counter to their vested interests. Political expediency has even denigrated the scientific process as mere “opinions” of scientists who are not “gods”.I think more than anything else, the lesson we must take to heart in Rolly’s life is that science must be devoid of any political and ideological agenda. Rolly’s higher calling was to bring to the public the best available scientific knowledge in the hope that it nurtures and inspires the future generation of scientists.Fernando “Ronnie” S. Penarroyo specializes in Energy and Resources Law, Project Finance and Business Development. He may be contacted at fspenarroyo@gmail.com for any matters or inquiries in relation to the Philippine resources industry. Feel free to follow Atty. Penarroyo on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/fernando-s-penarroyo-2b8a7312/)

Commentary

Philippine Resources - February 20, 2020

Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace

By: Patricia A. O. Bunye“Diversity & Inclusion” are two buzzwords that I have taken for granted, but have been forced to think about, in the last few weeks. An international legal publication contacted me to ask whether our firm had a “Diversity Statement”, and of course I replied that we did, as most major law firms now do. I was also invited to attend a forum on the same topic, where I realized just how much I didn’t know and still had to learn about it.At least once a year, the members of Diwata-Women in Resource Development, Inc (“Diwata”) and I devote time to planning activities for International Women’s Month which is celebrated globally in March. This year, on March 31, Diwata is presenting a talk on women’s leadership in resources development headlined by Gloria Tan Climaco. Recognizing that, in the Philippines, although women are very well represented in various fields in the mining industry – including law, finance, geology, mining engineering, community relations, communications, among many others – there is still a very long way to go for many women before they reach the top of their respective fields. Based on data from Bloomberg, only one in 20 global mining firms headed by a woman. Hence, the need to present strong women role models who can share their stories.These days, however, “diversity” no longer just means giving equal access to men and women in the workplace, but to accommodating or accounting for the “collective mix of all human characteristics”, whether visible (such as race, gender and disability) or invisible (such as socio-economic status and SOGIE (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression).On the topic of SOGIE alone, I confess that I need to be educated on the ever-expanding spectrum of orientations and identities.Diversity must also be distinguished from “inclusion” which refers to getting the mix to work well together, particularly in the work environment, where all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success.As pointed out by one of the speakers, diversity is akin to inviting someone to a party and inclusion is asking that invited guest to dance.I am reminded of the story when Harvard Law School (HLS) first admitted women in 1953. While women were finally allowed to attend HLS, it appeared that they did not have restrooms for women and the female students had to walk a fair bit to reach the restrooms that were specially constructed for them. Similarly, in the 1960s, Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson, one of the first African American NASA scientists whose work was critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. crewed spaceflights, had to use restrooms that were separate from her white peers.These days, restrooms still exemplify these diversity and inclusion issues, though the circumstances may have changed. According to one diversity and inclusion advocate, there are three main diversity and inclusion issues in the workplace: “the right to pee, the right to dress and the right to a name”.Under the first, we must consider whether there are gender-neutral restrooms where a person of any sexual orientation or gender identification would feel safe using, without harassment by others (i.e., restrooms are available for gender non-conforming people). Related issues are: Are restrooms designated as lactation rooms? Are there diaper changing tables in the men's restrooms? Are the directional signs to the restrooms in Braille and other spoken languages of the community or only in English? Are there handicapped restrooms located in your building? How many restrooms have sufficient space for a person (adult or child) and a caregiver?The second right (the right to dress) is a little trickier in professions that are conservative like law or banking, or industries which may require certain safety gear, like mining, but certainly, gone are the days when a ‘one size fits all’ dress code may be applied.The third right, the right to a name, is also tricky, as it refers not only to the proper name a person wants to be identified by (which may be limited by the person’s legal name on official or government documents, but also the pronoun (“he” or “she” or the neutral “they”) that person prefers.For many years, I have tended to consider the issues of diversity and inclusion purely in terms of gender, race and perhaps socio-economic background. Until very recently, I did not consider what resource persons have pointed out: that there are many other differences in the workplace that we must be sensitive to. For example, the differences across generations (i.e. Baby Boomers vs. Gen X vs. Millennials vs. Gen Z) or the pace at which a person wants to grow in an organization (i.e., there may be individuals perfectly willing to take the “slow track” in order to have more time with the family) are other factors that must be considered when making decisions in a business.All these are quite overwhelming and it is a great comfort that an inclusion advocate told me that what matters most is not being afraid to ask questions and the willingness keep the conversation on these issues open.Patricia A. O. Bunye is a Senior Partner of Cruz Marcelo & Tenefrancia and heads its Mining and Natural Resources Department and the Energy practice group. She is the Founding President of Diwata-Women in Resource Development, Inc., a non-government organization that advocates responsible development of the Philippines’ wealth in resources.

Commentary

Philippine Resources - February 20, 2020

Cooperative relations between the Philippines and Japan in the mining industry

A fine day Friday, the 54th Philippine Mining Club Luncheon is back at the Manila Polo Club in McKinley, Makati City. The Luncheon was attended by guests from different mining companies, organizations, and other sectors continuously supporting the Philippine Mining Club. Also in attendance were the marketing partners, one of which is new, the Philippine Youth Association for Responsible Mining and Natural Resources or known as YAMAN Philippines. Mining Engineering students from the University of the Philippines – Diliman were also present that day. Some notable individuals were also present during the 54th Luncheon; Director Wilfredo Moncano of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, CEO and Chairman Mr. Gerard Brimo of Nickel Asia Corporation, and South African Ambassador to the Philippines, H. E. Bartinah Ntombizodwa Radebe-Netshitenzhe. The event started past twelve noon with an introduction from Mr. Kevin Lewis, General Manager of the Philippine Mining Club. Mr. Lewis mentioned all the Sponsors and Partners of the Club and was grateful to all the guests present. Mr. Lewis introduced the emcee for that day, Atty. Patricia Bunye. Atty. Bunye acknowledged the presence of ten lucky students; five coming from the University of the Philippines, three from Adamson University, and two from Mapua University. The students from Adamson and Mapua also represents YAMAN Philippines, an affiliate partner of PMC. This is a big opportunity for the students to experience a professional networking forum bringing industries together and mingle with the guests who might be their future employer. Mr. Joey Nelson Ayson from the Philippine Mining and Exploration Association gave an industry update such as tenement statistics, DENR-MGB staff movement, MICC second audit, and others. The Philippine Mining and Exploration Association represents the mineral exploration industry including local companies and investors. His presentation was followed by the Stock Market Speaker, Mr. Alexander Gilles. Mr. Gilles gave the guests of PMC a stock watch. Mr. Gilles is a regular lecturer at seminars of the Philippine Stock Exchange. He works as consultant for market education, at First Metro Securities. He explains to newcomers, how to get started in stock markets and mutual funds. The highlight of the 54th Luncheon is the presentation of Mr. Koji Hirai, Director of Planning Division – Metals Environment Management Department of the Japan Oil, Gas, and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC). He presented JOGMEC’s activities and cooperative relations between the Philippines and Japan in the mining industry. On August 16, 2019, The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) signed today the Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) of Japan to promote cooperation in the mining and mineral resources sector. The MOC signing was followed by the signing of the MOU between the MGB and JOGMEC. The MOU states the terms of the cooperation or commitments between the two agencies for the conduct of mine rehabilitation training. The training, to be provided by JOGMEC, is slated to be conducted in two batches in October 2019 and January 2020. Mr. Hirai’s presentation was followed and ended by a q & a. At the end of the event, networking starts and students grabbed this opportunity to talk to some of the guests. Students had a chance to talk with Mr. Hirai from JOGMEC and Mr. Alexander Gilles as well. We in YAMAN Philippines are grateful to PMC for accepting us as an affiliate partner. We are so glad to have this chance and we are very excited about the partnership. This will surely open a lot for doors to the students especially the members of YAMAN Philippines. The next PMC Luncheon will be on April 3rd at Turf Room, Manila Polo Club. Article courtesy of YAMAN: https://www.facebook.com/yamanphilippines/

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