Mining lobby to ramp up info campaign, CSR ahead of reform measures means BUSINESS

MANILA - The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) said it plans to ramp up its information campaign and increase corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities as it awaits reforms the government promised.

Jimbo Owen Gulle, new spokesperson for COMP, said the group is working with policy makers for reforms in the country’s mineral industry, in line with the Aquino administration’s new mining policy.

“Definitely, we are being patient about the developments and we will cooperate. We are also talking to people who can help us,” Gulle said.

Since the issuance of Executive Order 79 in July, there has been a moratorium in the issuance of new mining permits pending a new law rationalizing the revenue sharing scheme between mining companies and the state.

The government will begin accepting applications for exploration permits after so-called "no-go zones" or the areas where mining activities would be prohibited or restricted are identified.

The Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) technical working group on the environment is expected to complete the mapping of the no-go zones in February.

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje earlier said MICC is deliberating on two options for raising government revenues from the extractive industry.

One option is to impose an automatic allocation of a certain percentage of gross revenues as government share and a separate revenue share from net proceeds.

A second option is to adopt the revenue sharing scheme used in the oil exploration sector, which entails a 60-40 revenue sharing between the government and fuel companies after recovery of costs.

Paje said a new revenue sharing scheme would allow the extractive industry to contribute as much as five percent to the country's gross domestic product, up from the present one percent. 

During last September's mining conference, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said the revenue sharing bill would not be passed in the present Congress because of the May 2013 mid-term elections.

Gulle said COMP would focus on its information campaign and CSR activities during the six-month lull between the campaign period and the opening of the new Congress.

"The mining industry is fighting a huge negative perception and through forums like these, we hope to recalibrate the discussion," said Gulle, adding that COMP also plans to hold tours in mine sites to showcase the benefits of mines to host communities.

Mining investment targets from 2013 to 2016 were revised after the government put in place a new mining policy, as follows:

-- 2013, $718.47 million, down from the previous target of $2 billion;

-- 2014, $851.75 million from $2.4 billion;

-- 2015, $757.60 million from $2.9 billion; and

-- 2016, $619.50 million from $2.3 billion. 

Last Friday, COMP held a forum at the De La Salle University (DLSU) to tackle the issues hounding the mining industry.

DLSU Political Science Department chairman Rizal Buendia said the forum was intended to balance the discussion.

"Mining is an issue that has been going on for some time. Government and non-government organizations have already given their stand. We should also be able to keep the balance where businesses are concerned," he said.

DLSU political science professor Ella Oplas said the conduct of the forum was intended to "encourage critical thinking among students."