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Miners pin hopes on next president

Mining companies are now pinning their hopes on the next administration, as investments in the sector plummeted over the past five years and fell short of the $20-billion target amid the uncertainty in government policy.

Mining investments fell 47 percent in 2014 to $693 million from $1.31 billion in 2013, a trend that started when President Benigno Aquino III issued Executive Order No. 79 in 2012, data showed.

The 2014 figure was also 76 percent short of the original projection of $3 billion, the group said.

“We need to help overcome this declining trend,” Chamber of Mines president Benjamin Romualdez said at the Mining Philippines 2015 Conference & Exhibition held at the Solaire Resort and Casino Hotel in Pasay City.

Benefits of industry. Benjamin Philip Romualdez, president of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines and Benguet Corp., explains the benefits of mining to local development at the opening of the Mining Philippines 2015 International Conference and Exhibition at the Solaire Resort and Casino Manila on Tuesday. KRIST JAN SEPARA

Romualdez said the last five years were not encouraging for the country’s mining industry.

“Yes, we continued with our respective company activities but beyond that, there were no significant industry news except for the operation of Nickel Asia’s second high pressure acid leach project,” Romualdez said.

“The election of new leaders next year should give us some optimism. We hope to have a more pragmatic vision and plan for the mining industry and a doable action plan,” Romualdez said.

He said more jobs would have been generated if the government encouraged investments into the mining sector.

“The Philippines is lagging behind its Asean neighbors in terms of foreign direct investments. Had the big-ticket mining projects in the pipeline pushed through, we would have obtained almost $20 billion in investments, and thousands of people would have been employed, with more businesses established to meet the needs of these new mines,” Romualdez said.

EO 79 forbids the signing of new mineral agreements until a new mining revenue sharing scheme is passed into law.

The Mining Industry Coordinating Council last year approved a higher tax on the mineral industry, representing 10 percent of the gross sales or a 55-percent share in net revenues.

The Philippine Mining Act of 1995 currently imposes a 2-percent excise tax on mining companies operating under the mineral production sharing agreement. Mining companies under the mineral production sharing agreement and operating in mineral reservation areas are also subject to an additional 5-percent royalty.

MPSAs are granted to mining firms which have at least 60-percent local ownership, while the financial or technical assistance agreement allows 100-percent foreign ownership of the projects. Projects under the FTAA are subject to a 50-50 revenue sharing agreement.

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