MANILA, Philippines – Australian investors expressed interest in the Philippines’ mining industry but they are on a wait and see mode.
President Benigno Aquino III discussed the potential of the Philippines’ mining sector in a bilateral meeting with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Wednesday, October 24. The two met at the Parliament House in Canberra as part of Aquino’s state visit to Australia.
In a press briefing after the meeting, Philippine Ambassador to Australia Belen Anota said more Australian investors expressed interest in the Philippines’ mining industry.
“There are additional [investors]. I just don’t know the amounts,” Anota said.
Palace Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang said Australian investors are “excited” about developments like the Philippine government’s issuance of Executive Order 79 that “provided a lot of clarity for mining investors” and the creation of its implementing rules and regulations.
“But they want to see some of the rules as they come out first before we see any new significant commitments. They probably want to see the rules as they’re laid out and they’re being laid out now through the steps that we’ve taken,” Carandang said.
He added, “Some of them will wait until there’s legislation and we want to do that at the quickest possible time.”
The Aquino government wants a new mining reform bill to increase its share in mining firms' revenues. The passage of the bill is needed before government can lift the moratorium on new mining contracts.
Carandang said Aquino made it clear to Australian leaders and businessmen that he is concerned about “measures and enforcement to protect the environment.”
Aquino and Gillard’s joint statement outlined the extent of the discussion on mining.
“Prime Minister Gillard described the mining industry’s role in Australia’s economic success, its leadership in environmentally sustainable and socially responsible mining, and the contribution Australian companies could make in the responsible development of the Philippine mining sector, particularly the development of Mindanao,” the statement said.
Australian exploration company Indophil has a 37.5% stake in the Tampakan mine project in South Cotabato. The Tampakan project has been put on hold after the Environment Department decided not to issue a clearance until a provincial government ban on open-pit mining is lifted. The project is said to be Southeast Asia’s largest gold and copper prospect.
Aquino told foreign journalists last week the project may be delayed pending the passage of the new mining reform bill.
‘All praises for peace roadmap’
Aquino and Gillard also discussed the recently signed Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
“One of the reasons why they put so much money into that area is because they want to see this conflict resolved. So they were really all praises for our efforts to achieve peace particularly the Framework Agreement,” Carandang said.
Carandang acknowledged Australia’s role as one of the biggest sources of official development assistance to the Philippines. “They have been very invested in our peace process in Mindanao.”
Moving forward, Aquino and Gillard agreed that the full implementation of the agreement is important to result in improvement in security and the livelihood of the communities.
Air services agreement, defense cooperation
Aquino and Gillard also witnessed the signing of a new Air Services Agreement.
Carandang said of the deal, “That’s meant to update previous agreements that we’ve had …. We needed to update our Air Services Agreement with Australia to ensure that we both continue to have access to each other’s markets.”
Another topic on the agenda was the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea). Anota said the two countries had “harmony and understanding” on the issue.
Like the Philippines, Australia supports freedom of navigation, and solving the dispute through a rules-based approach that includes the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The joint statement said, “The two leaders encouraged ASEAN countries and China to conclude a regional Code of Conduct in the South China Sea at an early date.”
On Thursday, Aquino and his delegation will participate in a business forum in Australia focusing on the Public-Private Partnership Program, education, manpower and mining. – Rappler.com
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