THE PHILIPPINE mining industry needs a boost from the government through renewed exploration activities and additional open-pit projects, especially after tax reforms implemented earlier this year doubled the excise tax on minerals to 4 per cent of gross output.
According to the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), the higher tax would ensure that the country continues languishing among the bottom 10 countries in the world in terms of mining regulations. “The tax regime of the [local] industry is very high,” COMP chair Gerard Brimo told the Inquirer. “At the same time, the industry is burdened by a serious lack of policy stability.”
Brimo said that any further attempts to increase taxes on the back of “policy flip flops” would seriously discourage investment.
“And this is actually happening already,” he said. “Fraser Institute ranks the Philippines in the bottom five [worldwide] for uncertainty in mining regulations.”
Brimo was referring to results of the Fraser Institute Survey of Mining Companies 2016 that was released in 2017 where the Philippines ranked 100th out of 104 jurisdictions in the Policy Perception Index – one of two components of the survey.
In the other component – Best Practice Mineral Potential Index, which ranks the country in terms of whether the geology encourages investments in exploration – the Philippines was 10th out of 104.
The two indices combine as the overall Investment Attractiveness Index, which ranks the Philippines 66th out of 104. In the 2017 survey released earlier this year, the Philippines remained at the bottom 10 based in terms of policy perception – 85th out of 91.
In terms of mineral potential, the Philippines dropped 39 places to 49th out of 91.
Thus, the Philippines’ overall investment attractiveness ranking also dropped by nine ranks to 75th.
Brimo said the moratorium on minerals exploration – implemented through Executive Order No 79 of 2012 – and the ban on open-pit mining (ordered almost two years ago when Gina Lopez was environment secretary) now both need to be lifted. The COMP chair said that the mining industry, if allowed to grow, could contribute significantly to the economic development of the country. “Three pending mining projects can bring the industry’s exports to over 9 per cent of total [Philippine] exports and increase the industry’s contribution to about 1.4 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product [GDP]. As of 2017, mining accounted for 6.4 per cent of exports and 0.8 per cent of GDP.”
Brimo was referring to the Tampakan copper project, King-king copper-gold project and Silangan copper and gold project – all in Mindanao and on hold because of the ban on open-pit mining.
Together, these three projects are expected to engage US$4.7 billion in capital investments and ring up revenues of 303 billion pesos (Bt191 billion) for the national government and 40 billion pesos for local governments.