President Benigno S. Aquino III’s Speech at the Presentation of the Presidential Mineral Industry and Environmental Award (PMIEA)
Rizal Ceremonial Hall, Malacañan Palace
20 January 2016
Making the most of our mineral resources requires a tremendous balancing act. None of us here are strangers to the destructive potential of irresponsible and unregulated mining. We know of the hazards posed to the miners themselves and the surrounding communities; we know of the risk to our water systems and our agricultural sector. How can anyone forget incidents like the Marcopper mining disaster, as well as past reports about how mercury from Diwalwal had already reached the Davao Gulf? These days, there is an even greater focus on your industry, as we face the increasing threats brought about by global climate change.

At the same time, we cannot simply ignore the value of mining that is done responsibly, under fair and effective government regulation. The Philippines, after all, is one of the most mineral-rich countries in the world, and I believe it to be government’s responsibility to pave pathways through which our countrymen can benefit from our natural resources in a responsible and sustainable manner. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the reason for our gathering: Because as we have pursued a cleaner, safer mining landscape, the companies honored today have worked with us, helping usher in the next progressive era in your industry.

The criteria that our awardees have met are, in fact, simple. These companies—namely Silangan Mindanao Mining, SR Metals, OceanaGold, RioTuba Nickel Mining, and Coral Bay Nickel—have performed well in protecting the environment, keeping their operations safe, and helping the communities in which they operate. Your companies are embodiments of our belief that inclusive growth is the most potent philosophy—both in business and governance. Fostering good will in the areas that support your success is not only the right thing to do, it also ensures the sustainability of your operations, and secures the future of your firms.

I made it a point to be here today to thank all of you personally, and to express my hope that, next time, most of you will have shifted from the runner-up awards, to the Presidential Mineral Industry Environmental Award. Moving forward, our government will continue working with you, in the belief that it is through constant communication and cooperation that we will give rise to industries that are truly sustainable, inclusive, and profitable. You will remember how I signed Executive Order No. 79, which mandates a more equitable revenue sharing scheme, and helps ensure transparency and accountability in mining. In 2014, we also completed the go and no-go zone maps that indicate areas where mining is prohibited, such as prime agricultural lands and tourism development areas.

I also wish to extend my gratitude to your companies for your cooperation with, and perhaps also you participation in, the many programs we have undertaken to minimize the impact of industry on our environment—particularly on our forests. For instance, there is our Nationwide Anti-Illegal Logging Campaign, which we launched in 2011. Since then, we have reduced the number of illegal logging hotspots from 197 to just 23. We have confiscated 32.66 million board-feet of illegally cut and processed logs, and have used them to repair school buildings and construct school seats. There is also our National Greening Program, whose goal is to plant 1.5 billion seedlings in 1.5 million hectares around the country, and our honorable Sec. Mon Paje tells me that we are on track to reach this goal by this year.

If we can continue our shared efforts to ensure the sustainability of mining, then I believe we will certainly reach its full potential in the Philippines sooner rather than later. For instance, I remember finding out how much of the copper concentrate required by our copper melters is actually imported from Chile, which I found strange. The Philippines, after all, is one of the most abundant countries in terms of copper reserves. How is it possible that it is cheaper, or more efficient, for our companies to ship copper across the Pacific, as opposed to sourcing it here? This is just one indicator of how much better we can get in terms of extraction. Meeting all of you today, however, fills me with optimism that we are getting better—both at making the most of our resources, and at making sure your growth is felt by the vast majority of Filipino people.

Thus, even as we recognize your efforts today, I encourage you all to continue and improve your good work, and to continue your fruitful engagement with your communities and the government. Together, the Filipino people have already achieved so much in the past five years and seven months, and with partners like you, I am confident that, even as I step down from office, our nation will choose to tread the Straight Path, and give rise to a future where the Philippines can continue to stand tall, and reach heights never before seen.

Thank you and good day.