MANILA, Philippines - No new mining agreements will be approved by the government until a new law is passed raising the government's share in mining revenues, according to a new Executive Order signed recently by President Benigno S. Aquino III.
After several weeks of consultations with concerned stakeholders, Malacanang finally unveiled on Tuesday Executive Order No. 79 imposing stricter measures to ensure responsible mining and environmental protection as well as seeking higher revenue sharing scheme for the government through legislation.
Apart from the moratorium on the approval of new mining contracts, the new EO, signed last July 6 by the President, imposed a mining ban in 78 tourism sites and other island ecosystems, on top of the farmlands and fishing sanctuaries currently protected by the country's laws.
Other highlights of EO 79 are the comprehensive review of all mining operations to ensure compliance with mining and environmental laws and rules and regulations, stricter regulation of small-scale mining, and the creation of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC).
"No new mineral agreements shall be entered into until a legislation rationalizing existing revenue sharing schemes and mechanisms shall have taken effect," the EO read.
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, in a press conference in the Palace, said they hope Congress will soon pass a measure giving the government "optimal revenue" share from mining activities. The government can earn P16 billion every year once legislation on higher government share on mining operations is passed, according to Paje.
At present, the government collects 5-percent royalty tax on mineral reservations and a 2-percent excise tax on gross sales of mining products.
Paje said the President has directed the newly created MICC to study the international standards on 5-percent to 7-percent share on mining operations and make the necessary recommendations to Congress.
Although new mining contracts will not be forged, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) can continue to issue exploration permits. These companies will be given the right of first option to develop and utilize the minerals in their respective exploration area upon the approval of the new legislation.
In the same EO, the President closed mining applications in areas enumerated in the country's mining law or Republic Act no. 7942, protected areas, prime agricultural lands, tourism development areas and other critical areas to be identified by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Palawan is among the 78 eco-tourism destinations where no new mining permits will be processed.
"The ecological uniqueness of Palawan's flora and fauna and the need to protect the same is recognized," Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. explained in disallowing new mining operations in Palawan, particularly the Puerto Princesa Underground River.
Ochoa also cited that Republic Act No. 7611 or the Strategic Environmental Plan for Palawan calls for the protection of Palawan's environment and natural resources
The government also recognizes the potential of Palawan for ecotourism growth and other form of investments such as the Puerto Princesa Underground River, he added. The underground river was recently declared one of the world's new seven wonders of nature.
Mining agreements signed prior to the EO issuance, on the other hand, will remain valid as long as they comply with existing laws and rules and regulations.
The President also ordered a comprehensive review of the performance of existing mining applications if they are complying with the country's laws. Appropriate action will be slapped against violators.
"The DENR shall likewise undertake a review of existing mining contracts and agreements for possible renegotiation of the terms …