A veteran lawmaker urged mining engineers to work toward responsible and sustainable mining operations in a meeting with Mindanao Association of Mining Engineers (MAEM) last June 12.
Valenzuela City Congressman Win Gatchalian said an environment and community-friendly framework is necessary to be able to change the negative perception of the public on the mining industry, which could generate thousands of job and bolster Philippines’ economy.
“The best way for the mining industry to improve is to take decisive steps to ensure that sustainable and responsible mining is more than a mere motherhood statement,” said Gatchalian, who is a member of House Committee on Trade and Industry.
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“You [miners] must show that you can be an equitable partner when it comes to national, local, and environmental development,” he pointed out.
Citing a news report, he said that the Philippines currently has untapped mineral reserves worth $1.4 trillion, which is 24 times larger than the country’s national budget for 2015.
Gatchalian also pointed out that the Philippines is one of the top nickel producers in the world, producing 18 percent of the total supply chain.
“The Philippines is not blessed with vast oil reserves or other similar resources, but when it comes to minerals, the wealth hidden under Philippine soil is hard to overstate,” Gatchalian said.
However, the Valenzuela City solon said the current negative public perception on the $1.4-trillion industry has affected the development and capability of public and private companies to tap Philippines’ mining reserves.
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Gatchalian likened the situation of Philippines’ mining industry to the country’s title as the next “Asian tiger economy” for decades, but has yet to realize its full potential due to its lack of mature and equitable economy.
As such, Gatchalian urged miners to always consider the well-being of local communities that might suffer from the social risks and hazards of large-scale mining operations.
“In the interest of social justice, it is also only right that locals in mining operations should receive a significant portion of mining revenues, which they can use to invest in livelihood programs,” he explained.
The lawmaker also mentioned proposed measures in Congress that moves toward responsible and sustainable mining which will largely benefit the mining industry and local communities.
“As mining professionals, I encourage you to renew your dedication to responsible and sustainable mining, and make it known through decisive, powerful action. Prove to the people that you are serious about protecting the environment and local communities,” Gatchalian said.
“Together let us take that final step, moving from the dream of potential to the reality of success that the mining industry deserves,” he added. (Tim Alcantara)