Mining is Gold
The remarks of Australian senior trade commissioner to the Philippines Elodie Journet that it is possible to engage in sustainable and environment-friendly mining activities was a boost to mining industry players who have suffered a blow following the decision of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez to shut down the operations of 23 mining companies and cancel 75 mineral production sharing agreements.
According to Journet, Australia is open to sharing its best mining practices and demonstrate that aside from protecting communities and the environment, mining can also create jobs for the people, stressing that for the Australian government, protecting the environment is very important.
Mining has great potential to contribute to the economy, and this has become very evident in Australia once again with news that the country staved off a recession due in large part to increased domestic spending and the boost it got from mining, with coal and iron ore prices continuing their rebound. Reports say mining exports have helped Australia achieve a faster than expected expansion in the last quarter of 2016, bringing growth to 2.4 percent.
Coal and iron ore happen to be the biggest exports of Australia (said to account for 50 percent of total export earnings), whose “five pillar economy” highlights the importance of the mining sector which contributes an estimated 8.5 percent to Australia’s total GDP, and providing direct employment for some 220,000 people or about two percent of the workforce – and this does not even include the jobs generated through “downstream” industries.
Just recently, a high level delegation of Latin American policy makers visited mining areas in Australia to learn how responsible mining companies have been able to successfully engage with host communities and affected indigenous peoples (IPs). A lot of mining companies in Latin America are embroiled in disputes with affected IPs, and the site visits in Australia were certainly educational as it provided the policy makers insights with regard to consultation and effective community engagement, conflict resolution, job creation for IPs as well as issues regarding the environment.
In fact, President Duterte himself recognized the excellent mining standards not only in Australia, but in Canada as well. According to Journet, it is possible for agriculture, mining and environment to “co-exist” in one area.
The Philippines sits on an estimated $1.4 trillion worth of mineral reserves. It holds one of the largest gold reserves in the world, and is ranked fourth in copper and fifth in nickel reserves. Countries like Australia and Canada have proven that sustainable and responsible mining is possible (and in fact this is something that local companies with ISO certifications are already practicing in their operations). If the issues that have been hounding the industry can be resolved, then its potential to contribute to the economy will be maximized – showing that indeed, mining is gold.
Trump’s “America first” to make China the dominant economic power in Asia
In his first address to a joint session of Congress, US President Donald Trump promised to “restart the engine of the American economy” by making it easier for companies to do business in the US and reduce tax rates so they could “compete and thrive anywhere and with anyone.”
He also announced plans to launch a national rebuilding program through a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure, and which would be “guided by two core principles: Buy American, and hire American.”
For Americans, the speech was inspiring and optimistic as it promised to herald a new chapter of “American greatness” and the revival of national pride and a renewal of the American spirit. Others, however, saw the inward-looking policy as a signal that traditional US allies may just have to look elsewhere for new trade and investment opportunities.
Some analysts have commented the “America first” policy could create an economic power vacuum particularly in the Asia Pacific region – with China ready to take up the slack in this part of the world. In fact, China seems to be preparing to showcase its economic muscles with the upcoming One Belt, One Road (OBOR) summit slated on May 14-15 in Beijing.
The OBOR initiative is by far the most ambitious infrastructure project of the administration of Chinese President Xi Jinping as it aims to build a new “Silk Road” of highways, railways, energy grids and ports that would spur closer trade ties and encourage interconnection between 60 countries across Asia, Africa and Europe. Along with the OBOR, China has also designed a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal that, once it is ratified, could become the biggest global multilateral free trade agreement considering President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that his predecessor, Barack Obama, had been strongly pushing.
Boosting the Silk Road is China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, seen as an alternative to financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund which has been drawing flak for its lack of accountability and accusations that its policies have exacerbated poverty and inequality in many underdeveloped countries.
Although the Philippines has not formally made deals relative to the One Belt, One Road initiative, relations between China and the Philippines have been getting warmer as seen in the state visit of President Duterte in China last year. President Rody is set to visit Beijing in May to take part in the One Belt, One Road summit – which could fast-track the “normalization” of relations between the two countries and bring China closer to re-establishing its dominance in the region – and we are not only referring to economic power.
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