Mining: Contentious As Always
Richard Mills, Chairman
has been said that within Asia, the democratic tradition is at its strongest
and most disobedient in Philippines. Few better situations demonstrate this
fact than the continuing unruly debate over the Mining Act.
The original legislation was
passed in 1995 by elected politicians but was almost immediately challenged
in court on constitutional grounds. The unelected judges of the Supreme
Court spent 9 years or so to deliberate, declaring it constitutional in the
end. Since that time, the Mining Act has suffered a barrage of molestations
from various concerned groups. Over just the past few months, major church
and NGO groups have issued scathing statements of alarm demanding that the
President or the Supreme Court materially alter the Mining Act or terminate
it. To no one’s surprise, the main concerns seem to be about Environmental
and Health & Safety provisions contained in the legislation.
In a recent promising
development, various groups with interest to develop a responsible mining
sector have banded together in a loosely organized consortium. One
interesting document to be produced by the group is a Compendium of Global
Best Practices. The study makes a comprehensive comparison of mining-related
laws for Australia, Canada and the US with those of the Philippines.
The material seems to indicate
clearly that the regulatory environment in Philippines is
remarkably similar to that of other mining countries in the areas of Health
& Safety, the
Environment and Community Development.
But if that is the case, then
why are there so many angry people? While it may be true that Filipinos have
an above average enthusiasm for civil disobedience, that still doesn’t
account for the tremendous volume of organized protests from intelligent
The mining industry says the
problem is that the government lacks the resources to enforce rules across
the sector. They self-righteously complain that regulations for big mining
operations are over-enforced while small miners (legal and illegal) are
mainly unregulated despite widespread reports of horrific environmental and
While that finger-pointing
explanation could be reasonable, it is clear that the mining sector is in
need of a PR makeover in Philippines. The industry is starting to work
together to better present its case of responsible mining and community
involvement but it has been slow coming and there is still a long way to go.
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