‘Forcing mineral processing via legislation won’t work’

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Current proposals by some sectors to ban the export of unprocessed mineral ores in an effort to boost domestic mineral processing won’t work, mining experts from the academe, government and industry said.

At a forum organized by independent think tank Stratbase ADR Institute, experts from the academe, government and industry discussed the Philippine mining industry in the context of promoting national security through industrialization.

“There is a need to look at the massive mineral potential of the Philippines today more than ever, especially in the context of the Duterte administration’s Build, Build, Build program. Having a conversation with all sectors will help uncover issues and solutions vital to pursuing mining downstream industry development to further our national security interest,” said ADRi President Prof. Dindo Manhit.

Philippine Business for Environmental Stewardship Secretary General Atty Lysander Castillo said: “We recognize the strategic impact of responsible mining in the country’s remote areas not only for job creation but also infrastructure, and all the hospitals and schools that the mining industry actually provides. There are existing local models that performs beyond laws that sets high benchmarks in environmental protection and community development for all mining operations to emulate.”

Ateneo School of Government Dean Dr. Ronald Mendoza presented his study, “Mining through the National Security Lens,” where he cited the lack of viable investments and capacity in processing and strong competition from other countries as among the factors that make the suggested ban counter-productive.

“The United States’ recent policy regarding steel may be an additional complicating factor, and it is well-known that China is shopping around to unload its excess supply of manufactured processed minerals,” he said.

These trends make the environment much more volatile, he added.

He said imitating the mineral-industry models in countries like South Korea, China and Australia is unsound because, unlike the Philippines, these countries have “complete value chains.”

“Markets do not necessarily produce those jumping points and connectivities across these different products on their own. Without government intervention or public sector support, markets will not necessarily lead to the development of industries all the way to the core.”

Adrian Cristobal, Jr., former secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry, said: “It is the market; we cannot legislate that (mandatory processing). Indonesia found out they can’t, even if they passed a law on forced processing.”

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