Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, through an executive order, has lifted a moratorium on new mineral agreements imposed in 2012.
The order allows the government to enter into agreements for new mining projects and undertake a review of existing mining contracts and agreements for possible renegotiation of the terms.
“The government may enter into new mineral agreements, subject to compliance with the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and other applicable laws, rules, and regulations,” read the order that was signed on Wednesday, April 14.
Executive Order (EO) No. 130 lifted the moratorium on new mining agreements imposed by former president Benigno Aquino III in 2012.
The order said new mining deals can usher “significant economic benefits” to the country, especially during the pandemic.
“[T]he mining industry can support various government projects such as the Build, Build, Build Program by providing raw materials for the construction and development of other countries,” it read.
It also said that allowing mining operations will increase employment opportunities in remote rural areas “thereby stimulating countryside development.”
The order tasked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to formulate terms and conditions on new mineral agreements and “strictly implement” mines safety and environmental policies.
Activist group Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) has earlier called on the president to stop mine operations and enforce the suspension and closure orders issued by the government earlier.
The group maintained that “mining has never been a significant contributor to [the country’s gross domestic product], taxes or employment.”
It also cited the Mine Audit Reports from 2016 to 2017 that show that mining projects violated environmental laws or failed to comply with their own contractual obligations.
ATM said allowing the resumption of mine operations will increase the risks and vulnerabilities of affected-communities.
“As we confront the impacts of climate change and this pandemic, more environmental destruction from mining is the last thing that our rural poor and forest-dependent communities need,” read a statement from the group.