Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, through an executive order, has lifted a moratorium on new mineral agreements imposed in 2012.
The April 14 order allows the government to enter into agreements for new mining projects and undertake a review of existing mining contracts and agreements for possible renegotiation of the terms.
The order lifted the moratorium on new mining agreements imposed by former president Benigno Aquino III in 2012.
The order said new mining deals can usher “significant economic benefits” to the country, especially during the pandemic.
It also said that allowing mining operations will increase employment opportunities in remote rural areas “thereby stimulating countryside development.”
The order tasked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to formulate terms and conditions on new mineral agreements and “strictly implement” mines safety and environmental policies.
The resources-rich Southeast Asian country is currently the biggest supplier of nickel ore to top metals consumer China, though less than 5 percent of its reserves of all minerals are estimated to have been extracted so far.
Mining is a highly contentious issue in the Philippines after past cases of environmental mismanagement have fueled a strong lobby against the industry led by local governments, legislators, advocacy groups and the Catholic Church.
Activist group Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) has earlier called on the president to stop mine operations and enforce the suspension and closure orders issued by the government earlier.
ATM said allowing the resumption of mine operations will increase the risks and vulnerabilities of affected-communities.