The Tampakan Copper-Gold project in South Cotabato is expected to generate much-needed government revenues that will boost the country’s coffers in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, an official of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said.
Director Wilfredo Moncano of the DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) told the BusinessMirror that he is elated by the decision of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) of South Cotabato to amend the province’s Environmental Code, which effectively lifted open-pit mining ban and paved the way for the resumption of the $5.9-billion mining project.
“I am happy that it turn out this way because the mining project will not only generate the much-needed economic activities, additional government revenues to fight the pandemic and help the economy recover, among other benefits,” he told the BusinessMirror in text message.
Moncano said the resumption of the Tampakan project will also encourage other investors—both foreign and local —to invest in the country because the mining sector has the support of not only the national but also of the local government.
On Tuesday, Moncano announced during the Executive Committee meeting of the DENR that members of the SP of South Cotabato have voted for the lifting of the ban.
Twice postponed, he said the votes lifting the ban would clear the only hurdle remaining in the realization of the development of one of the largest copper-gold reserves in Southeast Asia.
“All the major requirements to legally support the mining operation had been complied with. The ECC [Environmental Clearance Certificate] has been reinstated, the Certification Precondition from the NCIP [National Commission on Indigenous Peoples] after a MOA [memorandum of agreement] was signed by the company and the IPs [indigenous peoples] were some of the issues that prevented its development and of course, the prior provincial ordinance ordering the ban,” he explained.
However, Moncano said the resumption of the Tampakan project or even the lifting of the open-pit mining ban in South Cotabato does not mean that the environment will be sacrificed.
“On the contrary, this will strengthen the resolve of the regulator, DENR-MGB, and the mining company as a proponent, to require the latter to invest in equipment and personnel to look after the mitigation of any adverse impact from the mining operation,” he said.
According to Moncano, there are already existing modern technologies that can address the identified environmental impacts and the policy that requires mining companies to provide funds in all stages of the mining operation necessary for environment protection and enhancement.
“These are funds that were not required in the old law but now, this is strictly implemented. So, everyone is assured that what happened in the past will not happen in the future,” he assured.
Chamber lauds lifting of ban
The lifting of the ban on open-pit mining in South Cotabato aligns the local government unit’s environment code with national laws on mining, which allow open-pit mining method of extracting minerals used by thousands of mining companies worldwide, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) said in a news statement.
COMP, which represents big players in the country’s mining industry, said open-pit mines can be operated safely according to globally accepted standards and can be rehabilitated properly in a manner that provides alternative and productive land use after the life of the mine.
“We laud this decision by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of South Cotabato as it paves the way for the development of the Tampakan Copper-Gold project,” COMP Chairman Michael Toledo said.
Sustainable employment, better opportunities
According to COMP, with the Tampakan project, better opportunities lie ahead in South Cotabato and other areas from big-ticket mining projects.
“Together with Silangan and Kingking—two other copper-gold projects in Mindanao—Tampakan would be a powerful vehicle to achieve a vibrant, multi-faceted local and regional economy that provides sustainable employment, business opportunities, and access to education, health, infrastructure, and other social development programs that will improve and enhance the quality of life of those living in these projects’ host and neighboring communities, including their children,” he added.
Bigger government revenues
According to Toledo, when these projects go full swing, they can increase yearly national government revenues by P12 billion a year, local government revenues by P1.5 billion, exports by almost $2 billion and social expenditures by close to P800 million per year.
COMP said that for Phase 1 or the first 10 years of Tampakan’s operations, national taxes are estimated to reach P68 billion; local taxes, P4 billion; royalty for indigenous peoples, P4.8 billion; Social Development and Management Program, P2.6 billion.
“The Tampakan project will be an essential post-pandemic economic recovery tool whose actual and potential benefits far outweigh the potential negative impacts,” Toledo said.
“We believe no other sector is likely to provide a more responsible and sustainable alternative.”
Meanwhile, COMP said it welcomes any regulatory changes that would allow the revitalization of mining in our country.
The recent easing of mining policies, including this move by the South Cotabato local government, would increase the investment appetite for the industry.
“We thank President Rodrigo Duterte for creating the regulatory environment that allows such local legislation to be enacted,” Toledo said. “We look forward to further growth under the new administration and are ready to contribute to economic growth, even as we continue to be fully mindful of our environment, social, and governance performance for the benefit of present and future generations of Filipinos.” -30-