Mining Act: wisely-crafted to be a bad law

Mining operation of ANTONES Enterprises, GLOBAL Summit Mines Development Corporation and TR Ore in Matnog, Sorsogon. PHOTO BY CHRISTINE AZUL-ESPENILLA
Mining operation of ANTONES Enterprises, GLOBAL Summit Mines Development Corporation and TR Ore in Matnog, Sorsogon. PHOTO BY CHRISTINE AZUL-ESPENILLA

March 7, 2012

For 17 years, the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 has been the main policy framework of the government. We believe it was not a badly crafted law, instead it was wisely crafted to be a bad law; decisively designed to favor foreign and corporate interests. Why?

Where in the world can you find that foreigners are sold vast tracts of lands (maximum of 80,000 hectares) for 50 years while paying a measly sum of around sixty pesos per hectare annually? While the government said that mining is very important for the economy and promised to be a major revenue generating sector, the law granted companies income tax holidays for five to eight years. Not only that, foreign companies have the right to fully repatriate their capital and profit back to their home countries, making their investments insignificant to our nation’s revenue and economic development.

These explain why the large-scale mining industry profits billions of dollars every year from the extraction and export of our minerals while its contributions to government coffers remain dismal. No less than Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said that mining contribution averages at a measly 0.17% to total government revenues. Indeed, for foreign corporations it is more fun mining in the Philippines.

Now, the government is saying that we need to increase government shares in mining operations to a just and equitable slice of the whole pie. All these intentions to reform the mining industry should be matched with equal political will to do so. This cannot be done without completely abandoning the current mining policy and reorienting the foreign-dominated and export-oriented industry towards for the provision of our domestic needs and serving as the foundation of national industrialization.

Yet we have not seen the Aquino administration walk this talk. The DENR and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) still insist and proudly claim that the country’s Mining Act is one of the best mining laws in the world. In the leaked draft Executive Order on mining by Malacanang, it was clearly stipulated that the Mining Act serves as the overall framework of government mining policies and all laws should be ‘harmonized’ towards it. The Aquino administration continues to approve mining agreements; in fact more than 1.1 million of our mineral lands are now in control of foreign corporations and their local cohorts.

The global twitter-trending debate between Gina Lopez and Manny Pangilinan which represent two of the richest families in the land is telling of the split within the elite on how to utilize our natural wealth. The twelve provincial governments declaring moratorium on large-scale mining operations in their areas demonstrates that mining has proven more detrimental than beneficial to local economic development. Community barricades and protests actions all over the country are strong indications of a fast-growing nationwide movement against destructive mining. The New People’s Army attack on mining operations in Claver, Surigao del Norte and the tribal war declaration of the B’laan tribe, an indigenous people in Mindanao, against foreign open-pit miner Xstrata-SMI in South Cotabato demonstrates to what extent the people will put their lives and limbs in order to resist the foreign plunder of our resources.

26 Matulungin St. Central Dist., Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100

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