AUSTRALIA is pinning its hopes that the coming May general elections will install a Philippine government that recognizes the importance of the mining industry in the economic development of the country.
Australian Minister Counselor and Senior Trade Commissioner Anthony Weymouth said the mining industry could provide substantial employment and uplift lives of Filipino families.
“It is disappointing that it has not been given emphasis,” Weymouth said in describing how the administration of President Aquino has handled the industry.
He added: “It depends on the next administration. There must be an emphasis on mining. Mining has a trickle-down effect on the community that is 10 times bigger than the industry.”
Weymouth cited Australia’s experience with the mining industry in noting its huge contribution over the last 20 years to their economy and how it created regional jobs. He compared this to a shelved General Santos-located copper and gold mining project that could have created at least 1,000 jobs.
Mining contributes about 5.60 percent of Australia’s GDP. It is a main exporter of aluminum, coal, diamond, gold, iron, lead, ore and uranium.
On the other hand, mining has been projected to increase the country’s GDP by 2 percent. However, it has been estimated that only 2 percent of the country’s resources are being extracted.
The Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) has constantly been calling the government to lift the moratorium on new mining contracts, which it described as stalling the industry.
It has said in the past that the government neglect of the industry has led to the Philippines being placed in the bottom 10 of least attractive destinations for mining.
The Australia-New Zealand business chamber is part of the JFC, which also counts those from the American, Canadian, European, Japanese and Korean as members, along with the Philippine Association of Multinational Companies Regional Headquarters Inc.
Weymouth said challenges in the mining sector will take senior-level effort to improve. He also acknowledged that there are moves being done to address the red tape in doing business in the country.
For his part, OceanaGold Country Director Bradley Norman echoed the sentiments of Weymouth that the next administration should give priority to the mining industry.
“The Philippines is a wonderful place to do business. We have got primarily Filipino work force. We want to develop them. They have showed willingness to work and learn. They have a wonderful work ethic,” Norman said.
Norman added that they are looking to do more explorations in the country this year, aside from its current Didipio gold-copper mine in Nueva Vizcaya.
Norman said they currently employs around 2,000 Filipinos involved in community relations and explorations.
He said the local community fully supports and believes in their commitment to make positive contributions to the community.
“I will be confident in saying that overwhelming majority in the Didipio are very happy with the mining there and they are benefiting from it. Their children are benefiting from it, as well. It has contributed a lot of good in the barangay, municipality and in the province,” Norman said.
He, however, acknowledged that there are people who do not understand mining or have closed their minds and do not want to learn the industry.
Besides hospitals and road infrastructure, which they contribute to the community where they are operating, they also give scholarship grants to their worker’s children, with some of them being given jobs in their company after getting their diploma.
As seen on Business Mirror by Rodel Alzona & Claudeth Mocon-Ciriaco