A Legacy to Modernize the Economy; (Former Senator and Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). He Is the Only Asian Recipient of the Public Achievement Award Given by the Prestigious Washington-Based Climate Institute in Recognition of His Environmental Achievements, and for Convening the 1st Asia-Pacific Leaders Conference on Climate Change in Manila in 1995.)
Byline: Chairman HEHERSON T. ALVAREZ
ABOUT 30 percent of our population or more than 25 million Filipinos live in poverty today. Three out of 10 Filipinos do not have enough food on their table each day.
While the Arroyo administration has laid down a program to revitalize the minerals mining industry, this welcome development can be tapped as a major source of much-needed public funds to fight poverty.
But the challenge also lies in creating wealth for our people from the bosom of the Earth that would not spoil the environment.
Mining to combat poverty
At the 7th Asia-Pacific Mining Conference and Exhibition last June 7, President Arroyo said the mining industry will serve as a leading engine for Philippine economic growth, becoming a source of revenue and wealth to allow government to seriously bring down the level of poverty in the country.
The country's mineral wealth is an asset that can be used to stimulate economic growth.
A review of mining industries in 51 developing countries by the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation in 2002 found that mining countries fare better than other non-mining countries in their region.
Two decades ago, the local mining industry exported an annual revenue of US$1.2 billion, making the Philippines one of the top five largest mineral exporters in the world.
Today, our mineral exports have been reduced to almost 50 percent of its output in the 1980s. In 2003, the mining industry's share in Gross Domestic Product was down to less than 2 percent compared to 10 percent in 1972.
What went wrong
The dismal condition of the mining industry is a direct result of the dwindling number of mining operations in the country.
In 1981, there were 58 active mines. But only 27 remained in 1997, and presently there are only about 12 active mines, with only two of the 12 are largescale mines.
It seemed that past administrations failed to look at mining as a potential source of resource for public funds, with no clear mining policies from the administrations that followed after EDSA 1.
Clear signal for industry
But when the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the 1995 Philippine Mining Law in December, 2004, this sent a good and strong signal to investors in the mining industry that this administration is bent on reviving the mining industry.
Being at the Circum-Pacific belt of fire where the Earth's tectonic plates collide and the process of volcanism is most active, the Philippines is blessed with rich mineral resources.
These volcanic activities result in the abundant formation of gold, copper, iron, chromate, nickel, cobalt and platinum deposits.
In fact, the Philippines is the fifth most mineralized country in the world, with established reserves of 13 known metallic and 29 nonmetallic minerals. The country has nine million hectares of mineralized land, of which only 420,000 hectares are being utilized today.
In the most recent stock market report of a foreign financial group called Macquarie Equities, the Australian-based stock brokering outfit placed our untapped mineral wealth at $840 billion.
Just one-tenth of that estimate is more than enough to pay for all our foreign debt!
The Philippine Mineral Exploration Association estimates that gold and copper deposits in the country alone would raise new tax revenues by US$382 million annually.
The Philippine Minerals Development Institute Foundation projects that income tax receipts from a mine's foreign exchange earning would be US$951 million while excise taxes will amount to US$120 million for the life of one mine.
Reviving a sleeping giant
The revival of the local mining industry comes at a time when it is most needed, what with the decision of the Supreme Court removing all uncertainties on the fate of the mining industry--an crucial factor that will lead to more investments in the industry. …