Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers on Friday urged government policymakers to take advantage of the Philippines' mineral resources to restart the economy that was devastated by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 pandemic.
The Duterte administration's eeconomic managers “should reconsider, revisit and reinvigorate mining operations and tap these as funding source for the gloomy post-Covid-19 economic scenario being faced by the country,” said Barbers, a member of the majority bloc of the House committee on economic affairs.
In the very near future, Barbers said that the country would start feeling the shockwaves of the humungous debts incurred by the government to combat the Covid-19 pandemic and implement various economic stimulus programs.
In a privileged speech, Barbers said: “It is high time that we take a good look at our mines. Mining is the only answer to our economic woes. This is the only source of funding that could pay off all the debts incurred now and stimulate growth in our economy.”
As of September 2012, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau has estimated that the country has an estimated US$840 billion worth of untapped mineral wealth. The Philippines is the fifth most mineral-rich country in the world for gold, nickel, copper, chromite, iron, lead, and zinc, many of them drawn from major deposits on Luzon and Mindanao.
"Those estimates by the MGB were made eight years ago,” he said. “And the continuing rise in the worldwide prices of precious metals, particularly gold, makes the value of our untapped minerals increase to trillions of dollars.”
Barbers, chair of the House committee on dangerous drugs and vice chair of the accounts committee, said the current international trading price of gold had already reached more than US$2,000 per ounce “and our country is sitting on millions upon millions of ounces of gold deposits while other countries sits on indefinite economic uncertainty.”
“Aside from gold, we also have lots of other minerals and precious metals. Just imagine the prosperity that we have been missing all this time,” he said. “Are we waiting for another country to again lay claim over these wealth of ours?”
Barbers cited the case of Canada and Australia, two of several countries that have prospered from mining, employing hundreds of thousands of people, and have contributed much to their local economy.
“The mining industry (in Canada and Australia) contribute as much as 6 percent to their gross domestic product compared to our 0.6 percent mining contribution. Let us use their experience as our template. They were able to mine in their countries with minimal environmental disruptions,” he said.
As of September 2016, there are about 40 metallic mines and 62 non-metallic mines operating in the country, and these mining companies have already committed P13.1 billion for the development of their host and neighboring communities under their Social Development and Management Programs.
Former Secretary Gina Lopez, during her short tenure as environment and natural resources secretary, ordered the closure of at least 26 mining operations citing environmental and other violations. Her successor, Secretary Roy Cimatu, has recently ordered the re-opening of at least five of these suspended mines while reviewing and assessing others for re-opening after they have corrected their lapses.