Organizers of a recent forum on mining and industrialization agree that Malacanang may have removed provisions in the new Executive Order (EO) that could contribute to making the mining industry be beneficial to the people and environment.
The details of the EO, which outlines revised policies on mining will be released by Malacanang on Monday but groups IBON and the National Economic Protectionist Association (NEPA) doubt that the new set of policies will truly improve the industry and benefit the economy.
One of the supposed revisions that have made local governments and anti-mining groups anxious is the EO’s invalidation of municipal legislation that aims to protect communities from the harmful effects of large-scale commercial mining. Pres. Aquino was quoted by news reports last week that local laws should be consistent with national legislation. Both IBON and NEPA agree that if this pushes through, the rights of local communities and governments will be further undermined in favor of large mining corporations.
The groups also discussed the potential benefits of the mining industry on the economy, which they said will not be addressed by merely revising mining policies. "The Philippines can and should harness its own mining industry," said IBON executive director Sonny Africa during the forum held at the De La Salle University last week.
National Institute for Geological Studies (NIGS) consultant Dr Rolly Pena, also a speaker in the forum, discussed the country's rich potential in terms of the various minerals needed to build the important Philippine industries such as steel. These minerals include magnetite, laterite and nickelferous, which can be used to process alloys for steel chromium and nickel. However, Africa stressed that developing any Philippine industry must be done in the framework of national development. This would be comprised by state support, the building of vertical and horizontal linkages, the removal of de facto bias for foreign capital in terms of excessive incentives and the protection and strategic integration into the global economy.
Another speaker, Philippine Technological Council head Fred Monzada, affirmed this by describing how the Philippines currently sells nickel, chromite and manganese-rich laterite to China for its steel industry. He added that because the country liberalized its mining industry and neglected developing its steel industry, it has lost to these neoliberal policies any capacity to process its own minerals. Monzada stressed the importance of also having a development plan for people within the strategic plan of developing a national industry.
Co-sponsored by university-based youth group Kapatiran para sa Kaunlaran, the forum also featured former Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo, who spoke on the history and obstacles in building a Philippine steel industry. The forum is one of the industry consultation series aimed at building a roadmap for national industrialization. It is also a part of the nationalist economics lecture series which IBON and NEPA will hold throughout the year. (end)