Arroyo working on bill to outlaw open-pit mining

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 20) — House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is strongly pushing for a bill that will ban open-pit mining, as requested by President Rodrigo Duterte.

"Our bill will explicitly prohibit open-pit mining as defined and give a grace period to be determined by DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources)," Arroyo said Thursday during a technical working group meeting of the House committee on ways and means. The lawmakers are drafting a bill on a rationalized fiscal regime for the mining industry.

Arroyo gave the Department of Finance three days to submit its own proposal, noting that the bill should be a priority as the President said during his third State of the Nation Address (SONA).

"Unless DOF communicates to us in three days' time, we will make our own," Arroyo said.

Once the measure is passed, Arroyo said mining companies that will not be able to comply will be given a grace period to do so – while paying excise taxes – until their businesses are no longer considered open-pit mining.

She said the bill will clearly define open-pit mining, which for her means any violation of the guidelines issued by DENR on the environmental measures for operating surface metallic mines.

Chamber of Mines Board of Trustee member Gerard Brimo, however, said the proposed bill will undoubtedly dry up investments in the mineral sector, and companies already struggling now may be shut down.

"I can site one company, one copper-gold company in the middle of the country. It's a public-enlisted company so I hesitate to say their name but they have been losing money for the last two years. Last year they lost P1.7 billion pesos and the effect of the doubling of the excise tax and the effect of additional royalty is P700 million," Brimo explained.

Open-pit mining is recognized by the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and is an internationally allowed method of extracting mineral ore.

Duterte in his third SONA once again warned miners against environmental degradation. He said restrictive policies were on the way, and the ban on open-pit mining was just one.