The Philippine Government believes that a well-developed minerals industry is an option that can catalyze economic development and community empowerment. Minerals are part of its national patrimony, hence there is a big responsibility to maximize the benefits that can be derived from their utilization with due regard to the protection of the environment and without sacrificing the interests of communities.
The legal and administrative framework governing the minerals industry in the Philippines is contained in Republic Act No. 7942 (otherwise known as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995) and given flesh by its revised implementing rules and regulations (Administrative Order No. 96-40) and its subsequent amendments. These policies advocate the sustainable development of mineral resources in the country.
While both the Mining Act and its regulations provide a strong focus on environmental and social management, they continue to be the subject of debate by some non-government organizations who are questioning the compatibility of extraction and utilization of minerals with sustainable development. Also, they have questioned the constitutionality of the major provisions of the Mining Act governing the participation of foreign-owned corporations in the exploration, development and utilization of these mineral resources by filing a case at the Supreme Court in February, 1997.
After eight years of study, the high court initially decided to sustain the charge of the contesting parties. However, after successful presentation of arguments by Government and industry on the merits of allowing foreign investors to participate in the development of the minerals industry, the case was finally resolved in December 1, 2004 when the high court reversed its earlier decision and upheld the constitutionality of the contested provisions in the Mining Act. With this legal impediment removed, exploration and development activities in the Philippine minerals industry is due to become vibrant once again.
Compared to previous policy regimes on mining, the Mining Act calls for a greater responsibility from Government and the industry. Mining companies are expected to work closer with stakeholders to improve the quality of life within the communities where they operate. As regulator, Government, on the other hand, has the responsibility of establishing and maintaining the enabling environment for a sustainable development of the industry.
Minerals development in the country is led by no less than the President of the Republic of the Philippines. In her declaration of a policy shift in mining “from tolerance to promotion”, minerals development was elevated among the priority economic activities in the country during her presidential tenure. Early this year, she signed Executive Order No. 270 which approved a national policy agenda on revitalizing the minerals industry based on the principles of sustainable development. From this order, a Minerals Action Plan (MAP) was subsequently formulated by Government to chart a roadmap for the future development of the minerals industry. Minerals development is now an important component of the Medium Term Philippine Development Plan 2004-2010.