May 9, 2006
POTENTIAL OF MINING YET TO BE REALIZED
The biggest irony in the Philippines is that while the income gap continues to widen and poverty persists in the countryside, a huge source of wealth beneath the earth, which can be the solution to these two problems, remains largely untapped.
While successive governments have drafted plans to address the needs of those who have less, they have largely failed, primarily because they refuse to utilize the countrys natural resources and develop them fully to become an industry with limitless potential.
Speaking before a recent gathering of the countrys top geodetic engineers, Senator Edgardo J. Angara also stressed that it was time to realize the true benefits of mining.
We are the fifth most mineralized country in the world, with nine million hectares of mineralized land and established reserves of 13 known metallic and 29 non-metallic minerals, and yet majority of the populace is poor, Angara said.
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau estimated that in 2004, Philippine mining industry sales amounted to just below 52 billion pesos. If the countrys estimated 7.1 billion tons of metallic minerals and 51 billion tons of non-metallic reserves were extracted, this would be worth about 43.6 trillion pesos as based on a report by the Senate Economic Planning Office, which quoted estimates made by the National Economic and Development Authority.
The amount is nearly 10 times the countrys annual GDP and 15 times its foreign debt. Government would also be the recipient of income derived from at least 15 types of taxes and fees; in 2004, taxes collected from mining totaled 3.7 billion pesos.
But mining has not prospered due to a clash of views between those for and against it; the lack of domestic savings; and the hesitation to invite foreigners to invest in the industry, given concerns that developing mining would displace communities and degrade the environment.
Since mining activities are concentrated in far-flung areas, the resulting economic development is something that Filipinos can experience on the grassroots level. The problem of unemployment could also be partially addressed if mining was developed. In 2000, large-scale mining and quarrying accounted for just 104,000 employees, or a mere 0.30% of total employment in the Philippines for that year.
We must convince investors that we are serious in our desire to sustain the momentum generated by the realization of minings promise. We must also use our resources to come up with tangible economic benefits for all. And in so doing, we should ensure that the environment remains protected, Angara said.
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