Mining has place in Duterte economic agenda - MVP

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — One of the country's biggest miners has issued a staunch defense of the industry, in the wake of threats made by incoming President Duterte and the appointment of Gina Lopez as his Environment Secretary.

Mining can help Duterte carry out his plans for the economy, Philex Mining Corp. Chair Manny V. Pangilinan said on Wednesday.

For one, Duterte aims to spread development to the countryside, where poverty is at its worst. He plans to do this by establishing industries that can create jobs and bring in income for locals.

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Pangilinan said agriculture and tourism were the typical growth drivers in rural areas. But he pointed out that mining should also be considered, since most mineral reservations were "not in the cities, but in the boondocks."

Duterte likewise hopes to expand the country's export base.

The country earns most of its dollars from its overseas workers, who bring in about $30 billion a year, Pangilinan said.

The services sector, particularly business process outsourcing, is a close second, contributing about $15 billion. Electronics adds another $20 million. It drops off after that.

"That's why in trying to create a viable and extensive export base, you have to consider mining and its potential because the mining exports last year was north of $4 billion," he pointed out.

Target of attack

The mining industry has been bruised and battered this week, as Duterte met with business leaders in Davao. He came out with fighting words, telling companies: "If you cannot do it right, then get out of mining."

He also promised to conduct a "comprehensive review" of all mining permits issued by the government and the concessions they allow.

If the industry was already spooked then, Duterte's appointment of renowned anti-mining advocate Lopez would not have assuaged their fears.

In her first interview with CNN Philippines as incoming Environment Secretary, Lopez said she was "averse" to mining because of the damage it wreaks on the environment. Mining also left communities worse off, while foreign companies profited from the country's finite resources, she explained.

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Pangilinan, who famously got into a shouting match with Lopez during a mining conference in 2012, said her appointment was a "cause for concern."

Philex operates the gold-copper Padcal mine in Benguet province. It's also acquired new mining licenses.

Pangilinan said, "I would guess in the next few years there would be occasions that Padcal would require routinary business permits. We will then have to submit our applications with both the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources."

It will be business as usual for Padcal, though, unless the government issues a new mining policy.

Lopez may be strongly opposed to mining, but Pangilinan takes hope in Duterte's support of responsible mining.

"Gina may have her own ideas, but as Environment Secretary, she will be responsible to the people too. Mining is part of her portfolio."