Philippine mining order 'needs work'

President Benigno Aquino's newly-released order revamping the Philippine mining sector needs more work, his spokesman said Tuesday as activists assailed the new regulations.

Presidential spokesman Ramon Carandang said the order, which was publicly released on Monday, provided new environmental safeguards even if key details of the new regulations still had to be worked on.

"More work needs to be done by local governments, the national government, Congress, civil society and the industry itself," he said.

However, he remained upbeat, saying: "With the exception of a few hardline elements, the administration's reforms in the mining sector have been accepted as a clear direction for mining in the country."

The order was aimed at boosting government revenues from mining and ensuring environmental safeguards from the industry.

However, Aquino's proposed increase of mining royalties from the current two percent of gross to five percent, will require passage of a new law by Congress.

In the meantime the president has ordered a moratorium on new mining agreements until the law is enacted.

"We won't be seeing the full benefits of the new policy, if any, as it is dependent on new legislation," Jose Vistan of AB Capital Securities told Dow Jones Newswires.

The order also requires the agriculture and environment departments to designate "prime" farmlands and "island eco-systems" that will be closed to mining.

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said in a television interview that he hoped Congress would pass the new law before the mid-term elections in May.

He expressed confidence that the country would still be attractive to foreign investment even if it raised taxes on mining.

"We want a fair share and we want to optimise the revenues of government. We believe the true miners will pay and the speculators will go," he told ABS-CBN television.

Meanwhile about 200 environmental and leftist activists picketed the presidential palace over the mining order, charging that it mainly benefited mining companies.

The activists pelted a portrait of Aquino with eggs before dispersing.

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