Aquino OKs revised mining-policy rules

Posted at 10/05/12 7:22 AM

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino has approved the revised implementing rules of Executive Order (EO) 79 earlier submitted by the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) in response to concerns raised by stakeholders on the original regulations issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

“The President has approved the revised IRR,” said Secretary Ramon Carandang of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) in an interview, referring to what bureaucrats call “implementing rules and regulations.”

Carandang, a member of the MICC, added that Mr. Aquino approved EO 79’s revised implementing rules after meeting with MICC members that day.

He said the President sought further clarification on the revised version of the rules’ Section 7 on the Grant of Mineral Agreements Pending New Legislation, which Mr. Aquino had “reworded” by the MICC to “give comfort to the cement companies” and avert any shortage in cement supply or higher cement prices in the country.

“The cement companies were concerned that they might not be allowed to expand the area where they’re quarrying and we wanted to make an exception in that particular area. What we’re saying is, in cases where an inability to expand their area could potentially cause economic dislocation, then we would allow the area to be extended,” according to Carandang.

He said the clarification was “meant to allow the cement companies to continue to operate because it would have been open to interpretation.” “So it’s reworded to make it more explicit, because that could have led to a shortage or an increase in prices and we did not want that to happen,” Carandang added.

He said this should not be interpreted as a “blanket allowance.”

Carandang added that the revised rules were expected to provide the clarification sought by the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) and the cement industry.

“I think we’ve provided them the clarity that they sought. So therefore I don’t anticipate that they would contemplate any more legal action…. They were seeking clarity, we have provided it and we think that whether they agree to it, it’s clearer now,” he said.

Carandang added that the government remained “on track” on its plans for the mining sector, despite the slight delay in the issuance of the implementing rules of EO 79.

“Mining has been confused for so long and we are providing clearer direction to it. I think we’d rather make sure that this was [done] in a deliberate manner rather than sort of rush things. I think we’re on track. And I think the industry generally understands that,” he said.

Carandang added that the President approved the earlier proposed MICC revisions in Sections 3 and 9 of the implementing rules.

In Section 3, the definition of “expired mining tenements” was revised to respond to the questions raised by mining firms.

Amended, it read, “’Expired mining tenements’ refer to mining contract/agreements whose 25- or 50-year term has lapsed: Provided, that in the case of the initial 25-year term, the mining contract/agreement shall be considered expired if the parties concerned fail to agree on the terms of the renewal pursuant to Sections 32 and 38 of [Republic Act] 7942, the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, and other pertinent laws.”

The revised Section 9 includes a transitory provision that says, “Mining contractors whose tenements are expiring between September 1, 2012, and April 30, 2013, shall be given 30 calendar days from the effectivity of these implementing rules and regulations to file renewal applications.”

This is to provide a window for companies with expiring 25-year contracts to renew within 30 days from the effectivity of the rules, rather than six months prior the expiration of their contract under the original implementing rules.

The revised Section 9 also reiterates Section 2, Article 12, of the Constitution that “provides that the exploration, development and utilization of natural-resources shall be under the full control of the state.”

The revised rules would be effective 15 days after publication.