The Philippines Cracks Down on Mining in the Name of the Environment

The Philippines Cracks Down on Mining in the Name of the Environment
Demonstrators protest against a mining act, Manila, Philippines, Sept. 19, 2012 (AP photo by Bullit Marquez).

The Philippines completed an audit of its mining sector over the summer, which last month resulted in 10 mines being closed and another 20 being suspended for environomental violations. In an email interview, Minerva Chaloping-March, a research fellow at the Philippines-Australia Studies Centre at LaTrobe University, discusses the Philippines’ recent crackdown on the mining industry.

WPR: How important is the mining sector for the Philippines’ economy, and what impact will the mine closures have on it?

Minerva Chaloping-March: The Philippines is a major producer of nickel, gold and copper, and also exports silver, iron ore, chromium and zinc. However, recent figures give critics reason to say that mining is not that important to the economy. Data from the Philippines’ Mines and Geosciences Bureau from 2006 to June 2016 indicate that the mining sector contributes, on average, only 0.77 percent to the gross domestic product, down from a peak of 2.16 percent in 1985. Mining’s share of total exports peaked in 1973 at 24.56 percent, but today it accounts for barely 5 percent of total exports. There have been suggestions, but no formal discussions, from some lawmakers, economists and other observers that the Philippines should develop domestic processing facilities to create more jobs. But some industry leaders believe that local mineral production is not adequate to support and maintain downstream processing. There are also questions as to whether locally processed minerals could compete with their imported counterparts given wages and energy costs in the Philippines.

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