MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Benigno Aquino has signed a new executive order spelling out the government's policy on mining, a move that will influence the development of $12 billion worth of new projects over the next five years, officials said.
The signing ends months of waiting by a mining industry frustrated over a moratorium on new projects imposed since January last year as the government started a review of its mining policy. The government has said the new policy is one step toward the lifting of the moratorium.
Government officials, including Aquino's spokesman, did not give details of the policy but said the environment and natural resources minister would explain in detail the new executive order at a media briefing on Monday.
"This policy aims to bring the mining situation to a middle ground, where the objective of enhancing the economic benefits from the use of mineral resources is attained while not compromising the interest of the environment and communities, including indigenous peoples," Leo Jasareno, head of the state regulator Mines and Geosciences Bureau said in a text message to Reuters on Sunday.
"We see the industry moving forward under the regime of responsible mining."
About $12 billion worth of new projects planned in the next five years will be affected by the new policy, including the $5.9 billion Tampakan copper-gold project in southern Philippines by global miner Xstrata Plc and Australia's Indophil Resources NL.
The lifting of an 18-month moratorium on new mining projects in the country is unlikely to happen immediately after the release of the new EO, as the government wants lawmakers to first pass new legislation seeking more state revenues from mining to offset environmental risks, Aquino told Reuters on Monday.
Aquino also said he wants to see more mineral processing in the country, instead of the current practice of merely shipping ore to China and Japan, among others, due to the lack of local processing facilities.
The new policy would also seek to increase fees related to mineral exploration, as the existing fee structure is outdated, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje told reporters last month.
The Southeast Asian nation sits on an estimated $1 trillion worth of untapped mineral resources - mostly gold, nickel and copper.
(Reporting by Rosemarie Francisco and Erik dela Cruz; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)