Mining is the answer to PH economic woes — Barbers
Surigao del Norte 2nd district Rep. Robert Ace Barbers believes that the latent mining sector is one of the country’s potential tickets out of its COVID pandemic-induced economic slump.
During the House Appropriations Committee’s briefing on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) budget Tuesday night, Barbers urged the agency to maintain a stable policy on mining moving forward. He said this consistency will be the key in attracting investors as far as the industry is concerned.
“I think the government must be very clear on our mining policy. If indeed this is the only way to go (to help the country in its economic turnaround), kailangan natin mag-invite ng investors, kailangan natin magkaroon ng influx of investments (we need to invite investors, we need an influx of investments). And the only way to do that is for an investor to think their investment in the country is safe, na hindi pabagu-bago yung policy (we’re not fickle with our policy),” he said.
“Now is the time. Perhaps (the help of Congress) is needed to push more and ask the President to open up our mines, make sure that best practices will be implemented in the operations of these mines and enjoy the fruits of our endowment so to speak. Mr. Secretay (Roy Cimatu), kailangan ho siguro itulak natin ng husto (I think we need to push for this aggressively),” Barbers said.
Minutes earlier, DENR-Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Director Wilfredo Moncano told the panel that the Philippines’ mining potential is worth a whopping $7 trillion.
“The mining policy of government really right now is to promote the utilization of mineral resources in the country. In fact, we have submitted to Congress the endowment potential of the country. We have about $7 trillion (in) endowment. But this is endowment. These are minerals that are still on the ground, (they) still have to be extracted,” said Moncano.
Barbers said mining currently contributes less than 1 percent to the Philippines’ gross domestic product. This is weak compared to Australia’s 7 percent and Canada’s 5 percent.
Cimatu concurred with the Mindanao lawmaker as to the huge potential of the local mining industry.
“I fully agree with the statement of Congressman Barbers. He lives in a mining province and he knows the advantage of mining these assets. Kailangan yung mining companies natin maka-countribute sa economy (Our mining companies should contribute to the economy),” he said.
The DENR chief said Congress has already paved the way for this by raising the mining excise tax to 4 percent from the previous 2 percent.
He also acknowledged that a known route for impoverished countries to become rich is to tap its natural resources. “Kuwait used to be a poor country, dependent on fishing. When they discovered oil, nag-boom ang Kuwait (Kuwait’s economy boomed).”
Barbers emphasized the importance of a consistent policy, saying the country shouldn’t open up mines one day only to shut down the following just because it encountered small challenges or problems.
“The country is now in almost about P1 trillion in debt because of COVID. All the economic stimulus that Congress passed are actually anchored on debt. Inutang ho natin yun. Ang tanong, after we recover from COVID, paano natin babayaran yun? (We borrowed that money. The question is, how are we going to pay for that once we recover from COVID?) We have to have a good and strong economy,” he said.
“We should have an industry na matibay at malakas. Dito sa Pilipinas, yun (mining) na lang ang ating pag-asa (We should have an industry that is stable and strong. And here in the Philippines, mining is our only hope),” added the solon.