An official of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said the agency is committed to establishing a responsible and globally competitive mining industry, which is faced with yet another mining tax regime in the offing.

Interviewed at the sideline of the 2023 Mining Philippines International Conference and Exhibition in Mandaluyong City on Tuesday, DENR Undersecretary for Integrated Science Carlos Primo David said starting next year, the DENR will push for a more efficient and transparent system in the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), which regulates mining, as an integral part of the administration’s mining governance efforts.

The event came a day after the House appropriations committee approved the new fiscal regime for the mining sector, a measure that will generate an additional P37.5 billion in revenues for the government in the first full year of its implementation. The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) had earlier said the current mining tax regime is already high and an additional increase in mining tax will hobble industry growth.

David, who represented DENR Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga, delivered the keynote speech during event at the EDSA Shangri-La in Mandaluyong City on Tuesday.

According to David, to help the industry, the DENR will introduce positive changes in both mining regulation and governance “for the expressed purpose of establishing a more professional, responsible and globally competitive mining industry.”

Organized by the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines COMP, the event, which came following a four-year hiatus, is expected to reignite discussions on the future of mining in the Philippines. With the theme “Seeing Green: Shaping a Sustainable Minerals Development Industry,” the event brought together a diverse assembly of participants, including government officials, private sector representatives, academics, indigenous communities, and mining host communities, with the hope of charting the future of mining in the Philippines.

According to David, several initiatives started by the DENR aim to improve both the regulation and governance of mining.

A licensed geologist and expert in environmental science, David said the DENR pilot-tested a new process called Negotiated Sustainability and Resilience Agreement or NSRA and will work towards its implementation next year.

“It’s an add-on to the ECC [Environmental Clearance Certificate] process,” he said.

It would include a dialogue between the DENR and the mining company to identify and negotiate shared goals such as reduced environmental impacts, renewable energy adoption, and community resilience for the overall improvement of their quality of life. “It will take only 90 minutes to complete,” he said, assuring mining companies that it will not be a burden or an additional regulation for miners.

Nevertheless, the official said the NSRA goes beyond compliance.

“It is a partnership based on agreed values, principles, and specific milestones,” he said.

“To date, two mines have undergone the process—a new gold mine up in Kalinga and one of the largest copper mines in the Visayas,” he said.

“When in full swing, the agreed goals will be the hallmark of the evolution of a green mine,” David added. Meanwhile, the official said that the DENR is now also reviewing the Social Development Management Program (SDMP) to link it to the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to build with the assurance that it responds to host community and host ecosystems needs, and to ensure that any local vulnerability is transformed into capacity.

“We shall soon be calling on industry partners to review the new program before we put it into a DAO [Department Administrative Order],” he said.

David also stated that DENR is investing in the digitization of all mining-related information and the processing of applications and permits. “We have substantially completed migrating all data onto a single platform, with the exception of data from one last division in the MGB [Mines and Geosciences Board]. Digitization should address making our procedures more efficient, leading to shorter and more transparent processing permits and applications,” he pointed out.

To boost the process, he said the agency has engaged the expertise of PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited-Philippines, a British multinational professional services brand of firms, operating as partnerships under the PwC brand.

“The PWC will be supporting our department-wide process as we ensure that the bureaus and their people and technologies are fit for purpose,” he ended. – Jonathan L. Mayuga