In a webinar hosted by Arangkada Philippines, Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) Chairman Gerard Brimo said on Wednesday that the mining sector has been relatively unaffected during the COVID-19 pandemic, which already caused severe damages in a lot of industries such as tourism and airlines.
This, he said, makes the industry very much capable of helping the Philippine economy, which slipped by 11.5 percent from July to September, recover from the pandemic-triggered recession.
“I think there is a growing realization in the government [about that] and that we need to do something to keep the economy moving again. The way to do that is to fix the policies to grow the industry,” Brimo, who also serves as the President of Nickel Asia Corp., said.
During the first half of this year, mineral exports only declined by 2 percent, from US$2.465 billion in the first half of 2019 to US$2.416 billion in the first half of this year.
Employment in mining was also largely unaffected by the pandemic, with some large scale mines only experiencing temporary closures because of lockdown restrictions.
If anything, miners were even able to realign some of their social development funds to assist communities in fighting COVID-19, Brimo said.
However, he said that there are “three problematic policies that have stifled the growth of the industry”, including the moratorium on new mineral agreements imposed under Presidential Executive Order No. 79 (2012) and the ban on the open-pit mining method issued by former and late Environment Secretary Regina Paz Lopez.
Brimo also said that there is still a need to resolve the suspension orders issued by Lopez to some mining companies.
In September, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Director Wilfredo Moncano said that as many as 138,000 jobs in the mining sector were lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As this happened, MGB had sought the approval of President Rodrigo Duterte for a mining sector program that specifies some recommendations on how the extractive industries could help the Philippine economy recover from the recession.
“Similar to other industries, the mining sector lost export production values, taxes not raised, employment losses, undelivered supplies, among others, for the three months that the mining companies were prevented from operating,” Moncano earlier told Business Bulletin.
“While it has been allowed to resume work now, the mining companies have to bear the strict health protocols issued by the IATF [Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases],” he added.
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