Revival of mining industry pushed

A piece of raw gold is weighed and sold to a dealer in Mount Diwata, Diwalwal on Mindanao island in this Feb. 24, 2008 file photo. — DAVID GREEDY/BLOOMBERG NEWS

THE Finance department is looking to revive the mining industry through the sale of state mining assets and the passage of a long-awaited tax measure, in order to create jobs and generate revenues amid the economic slowdown.

“Definitely, we are pushing for the revival of the mining industry. As I keep on mentioning, the mining industry provides jobs in areas where there are no other alternative jobs. So we will be pushing for revival of the mining industry because they provide good jobs in the rural areas,” Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III told the Philippine Business Conference & Expo organized by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).

The Finance chief said he has asked the Privatization and Management Office (PMO) to proceed with the plan to sell Nonoc Mining and Industrial Corp. and Basay Mining Corp., among others, after reviewing all of the government-owned mines.

Mr. Dominguez said the government hopes to raise revenues through the privatization of its mining assets, whose valuations have yet to be determined.

“I have asked them to really push the revival, the privatization of Nonoc mines, of Basay mines and all the other mines that are held by the government and we are also working very closely with the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) and the MGB (Mines and Geosciences Bureau) to really push mining to open again,” he said.

The mining industry has been struggling since President Benigno S. Aquino III signed in June 2012 an executive order imposing a moratorium on new mining permits “until a legislation rationalizing existing revenue-sharing schemes and mechanisms shall have taken effect.”

When President Rodrigo R. Duterte took office in 2016, he ordered a crackdown on erring mining firms and tightened environmental rules for the industry.

The proposed tax measure aimed at raising the state’s share in mining revenues has yet to be approved by Congress.

A proposed revenue measure on mineral products nearly made it out of the 17th Congress that ended in June 2019, as the Senate adopted House Bill No. 8400 with minor amendments. The bill sought to lower the royalty on large-scale mining within mineral reserves to three percent of gross output from five percent currently and introduce a 1-5% margin-based royalty on those outside mineral reserves.

For the current Congress, House Bill No. 6135 which provides a fiscal regime for the mining industry has been approved by the House Committee on Ways and Means. Meanwhile, its counterpart measure, Senate Bill No. 313, is still pending at the committee level.

Data from the MGB showed the production value of metallic minerals fell 14.4% to P53.88 billion in the first half of 2020, following disruptions to mining operations during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Mr. Dominguez reiterated the government’s willingness to assist the airline industry, which has been battered by the pandemic.

“We are in deep discussions with them. And we are prepared to participate in the assistance to the airline industry. But let me point out that whatever assistance we have, or we are going to provide will be part only of the entire process, the private sector banks have to cough up the majority of the assistance,” he said.

The Air Carriers Association of the Philippines (ACAP) last month said about P700 million had been allocated for local airlines from the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, on top of the P10 billion they expect from state financial institutions to lend to or invest in the industry.

ACAP is composed of Philippine Airlines, Inc., Cebu Air, Inc., Philippines AirAsia, Inc., Air Philippines Corp., and Cebgo, Inc. Airlines have earlier announced cost-cutting measures and retrenchment programs, as operations have been affected by travel curbs. — Beatrice M. Laforga with inputs from Charmaine A. Tadalan

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