“Shaping the Future
A speech delivered by Vice President Jejomar
C. Binay during the Mining Philippines Conference and
Sofitel Philippine Plaza, Pasay City
September 19, 2012
I thank you for the very
kind introduction. I am honored to join this conference of the mining
industry as you convene to tackle the vast prospects that lie ahead. I
see many familiar faces in the crowd this morning and I believe our
paths first crossed when I spoke before the 2nd Mining Convention of
the Philippine Society of Mining Engineers in Davao. I am truly happy
to see you here in Manila.
We gather during a time of
intense debate. Mining has become a polarizing issue and whenever
talks drift to this industry, unmovable lines tend to be drawn, with
each camp boldly championing their cause. But amidst these
discussions, I propose that the ultimate concerns of both sides can
and should be tackled in unity. When I last spoke in Davao City, I
submitted that the real question was not whether we should mine or
not, but how we can mine responsibly wherever mineral wealth lies.
Mining and responsibility
are inherently joined at the hip for good reason. The target of mining
is wealth of finite quantity that is usually non-renewable. The
environment can be affected by mining activity, and communities both
proximate and remote from the mining areas are not immune to the
changes that mining brings. Our environmental and social ecosystems
are profoundly touched by our actions and we must move with purpose,
knowing full well that our deeds breed lasting consequences.
The fears are real. However,
man and science has evolved at paces unheard of as recently as the
20th Century. The technologies we have at our disposal are impressive
and all of these should be brought to bear so that mining becomes a
unifying issue, rather than a divisive one. Wherever mining shall be
permitted by law, to miners of whatever scale, it is important that we
apply every measure and technology to ensure that the impact on the
environment is managed to acceptable degrees and that after the
operations have ceased, proper rehabilitation is undertaken.
Of greater importance, the
gains of mining should trickle down to empower and improve the lives
of those who truly own these resources: the Filipino people. Though we
live in an era where knowledge is fast becoming the foremost commodity
of value, minerals still hold a durable and lasting worth, and we
should be able to use the gifts bestowed by Providence to close the
gap between poverty and development.
Certainly, the issue of
mining is very complex, one that unleashes a host of arguments and
statistics both for and against its pursuit. At the very core are
mining’s economic benefits. But these are not the only essential
considerations. The real issue is how mining can advance social
justice – how it can improve the lives of not just an elite few, but
those in the middle class and most especially, our countrymen living
below the poverty line.
At the end of the day,
mining should help raise the economic bottom line for the average
Filipino and allow him or her to pursue a dignified and productive
life. This is the context within which the future of mining must be
And so I stand before you
today to ask all to rise to this challenge: Let social justice be one
of the hands that shape the future of Philippine mining.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This challenge is made even
more urgent by recent news and encouragements. A few weeks ago, an
article published in the New York Time heaped praises on the
Philippines and called us the “economic bright spot” of Asia.
Last July, Standard & Poor’s
raised the country’s debt rating to just below investment grade. This
is the highest rating we have obtained since 2003 and the confidence
that S&P has affixed shows that we are certainly blazing the right
The same New York Times
article cited a study done by banking giant HSBC projecting the
world’s top economies in 2050. This research highlights – at the very
top of its list – “[t]he striking rise of the Philippines, which is
set to become the world’s sixteenth-largest economy, up 27 places from
today.” HSBC forecasts that in 38 years’ time, the Philippines will be
third on the list of countries with the fastest growth, next only to
China and India.
The article also cited areas
where we can do better. In listing “real weaknesses” of the country,
Frederic Neumann, a senior economist of HSBC claimed – with basis –
that we have “traditionally underexploited” our natural resources.
The Philippines has always
had the potential to be one of the most viable mining sites in the
Asia Pacific region. According to the Asian Development Bank, the
Philippines is the 5th most mineralized country in the world and ranks
second in gold reserves, 4th in copper, fifth in nickel, and sixth in
By our own government
estimates, there are around 21.5 billion tons of metal deposits buried
beneath our soil. This includes nickel, iron, copper and gold. But for
all the wealth that lies waiting to be unleashed for the benefit of
its true owners, mineral extraction has not been as great an economic
driver as it could be. Ghosts from the past such as mismanagement and
fear and ignorance have all served to clip our wings, and deny us even
the dream of flight.
But all that is now past. I
am proud to say that our dreams of prosperity can now be attained.
Executive Order No. 79 has been signed by President Aquino.
The Mining Act of 1995 may
have attracted praises and objections from various sectors. It is not
a perfect law but experts from countries where mining thrives have
paid tribute to this legislation by calling it one of the very best in
the world. EO 79 has elicited similar receptions from society and
while it too, is not perfect, it is a well-conceived policy.
Dean Antonio La Viña, an
environmental policy expert and dean of the Ateneo School of
Government, calls EO 79 “a good and progressive issuance for which
President Aquino merits congratulations.” He goes on to comment
that while the government’s mining policy, as illustrated by the EO,
may not be perfect, it is good. “In fact, it is very good,” he says.
The good dean is not alone
in seeing the value of this Executive Order. Many more now see a clear
path and structure towards a responsible and profitable growth in the
mineral industry. The Mining Act, together with EO 79, provide firm
basis upon which those who invest can make a decent profit, and a
country hungry for development can reap just gains from the treasures
The Executive Order shows
what is possible when government takes on the challenges of our times
with transparency and good governance in mind. The President and I are
one in the conviction that good governance and transparency will
always encourage businesses to flourish and drive economic growth. The
fruits of our labors prove just that, and serve to strengthen our
resolve to infuse all other efforts with the same spirit.
A multipartite approach –
one that involves industry experts, the academe, the local and
national government and civil society leaders – can help redefine the
mining industry. We can achieve sustainable, environmentally-sound
mining principles and continuously refine such a framework that
upholds both economic and social justice.
This conference happens at
the best possible time. As you gather over three days, and with the EO
as your guide, the entire nation looks forward to all the dreams you
can make real, and all the lives you can change.
Thank you very much.
Mabuhay kayong lahat.