MANILA, Philippines - The government has two choices: continue to be a mining country similar to how mining brings huge economic benefits to Australia, United States, and Brazil, or impose a mining ban and resort to metals importation, which is not sensible for a highly mineralized country.
This was raised by the mining industry led by Philex Mining Corp Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan on Friday's heated discussion on the impact of mining on the country's economy and ecology. The miners' strong position was equally met with passion from the non-government organizations led by ABS CBN Foundation Chairman RePangilinan
gina L. Lopez, who are opposing mining operations in the country for their being destructive to environment.
The miners said that the opposition against mining operation in the country could prompt a ''pro-people'' government to issue a mining ban, but this will be at the expense of all.
''If mining is banned, our need for mining products will not stop. Our only resource is importation. We would pay the exporters' cost of production, the return on their investments,'' said Pangilinan.
However, NGOs insisted on the sovereignty of protecting the environment and of biodiversity stressing the country's most diverse ecological resources.
''Biodiversity is irreplaceable. We have made commitments to the international community to protect our biodiversity sites,'' said Lopez.
But Pangilinan countered that protecting the environment is the role of the government.
''We should not be afraid to manage our environment. Governance and regulation are the key issues,'' Pangilinan pointed out.
For his part, Peter Wallace, chairman of the Wallace Business Forum, said that the worse consequence of a ban is the proliferation of illegal mining.
''If the government continues to dillydally, opposition will succeed in blocking development. Then, informal, small scale mining takes over. Disasters continue and mining communities remain poverty stricken,'' said Wallace.
In this case, he said, government can choose to embrace best and sustainable environmental practices in mining as those adopted by developed countries and uplift the living levels of its poor -all at the same time.
Unfortunately, while the country's mining wealth is estimated at $840 billion, it accounts for less than three percent of the world's mineral wealth but has yet to attain optimum balance in the policy of resource use and environmental protection.
''Saudi Arabia is rich because it has oil and pumps it out of the ground to sell it. The Philippines is poor because it has gold in the ground - and leaves it there,'' Wallace said.
Pangilinan noted that mining in Australia contributes $142 billion each year, in Canada, $37.5 billion; in the U.S., $1.9 trillion; and in Brazil, $24 billion.
He said that mining and environmental protection don't have to fight against each other.
To elevate efforts to protect nature, government may actually upgrade the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) to a separate entity similar to the independent Environment Protection Agency of the US.n