by Hanna C. Lacsamana
The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) is pushing for the creation of mineral economic zones by using its idle but suitable lands and rich mineral reserves in line with its goal to make the country industrialized and no longer dependent on related imports.
This, as PEZA Director General Charito Plaza claimed that mining should continue and for the country to make the most of its raw materials by manufacturing its own products instead of selling its resources abroad.
During the Luzon ecozone summit on Thursday in Baguio, the last leg of the nationwide pursuit of gathering local chief executives and private land owners for its plan to build economic zones, Plaza said PEZA is set to submit an appeal to Congress that calls for the country to stop the exportation of raw materials and let the mining industries continue even as many mining firms have already been closed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources under Sec. Gina Lopez.
Among those affected by the DENR orders for failing the mining audit are Benguet Corporation and Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company.
“We should encourage our mining companies to continue, but we should put up mineral processing plants, which we will declare as mineral processing zones,” said Plaza, who is one of the authors of the Special Economic Zone Authority Act.
She said having mineral ecozones will help in protecting the environment and avoid the negative impacts of mining that resulted from the current setup, which failed to monitor the compliance of the industry to responsible mining methods.
Mineral economic zones, which will form part of the first Philippine economic zone map PEZA will soon come up with to serve as a reference for investors in their expansion plans in the country, shall complement existing industries and will spur the creation of more jobs in the country.
“We can never industrialize without the minerals, which are the major component of the steel industry, which in turn, is the major component of industrialization. It is time for us to manufacture steel.”
Plaza said, as she reminded that the country, in fact, is the fifth largest mineral country in the world, but it is highly dependent on imported steel and finished products made out of iron, copper, or nickel, which the country, including the Cordillera, is abundant of.
Based on dialogues, Plaza said almost 100 percent of importations by local industries of materials they use to manufacture their goods are imported. The country, she said, is importing a total of $5 billion a year of steel, including basic tools like hammers and nails.
She said the country fails to take advantage of its natural resources so it has become imported dependent. Inviting foreign industries’ operation in the country through mineral economic zones, she added, will make its land developed and productive and the country industrialized.
“So what PEZA is now doing is inviting these suppliers to bring their industries here so they become complementary industries to the existing ones and with that we will be able to complete the supply chain of the Philippines. We see this as a very important factor for us to no longer be an imported dependent country,” Plaza said.