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Dominguez Warns Of International Suits If Mines Are Shut Without Due Process
March 15th, 2017 | 09:27 AM | 803 views
Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos Dominguez warned yesterday that the Philippine government faces protracted international arbitration suits should Malacañang shut down big mining operations with foreign partners.
If due process is not followed and there are legal challenges to closure orders for these mining companies, the Philippines will surely lose, Dominguez said.
Asked by Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drllon whether an anti-mining industry recommendation of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) would be academic, Dominguez replied that he could not read the mind of President Duterte as ‘there are processes to be followed.”
“I don’t think the President will not follow these processes because he is a stickler for rules,” he told the Environment and Natural Resources Committee of the Commission on Appointments (CA).
The President has said he is supporting the position of his nominee, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Regina Paz La’O Lopez on the need to maintain an environmentally clean country. She has ordered 23 mines closed and cancelled 75 Mining Industry Production Agreements (MPSA)
The President has also said he does not mind losing P70 billion in annual revenues from the mining sector if 311 mines are closed, if they cause environmental degradation.
But Dominguez warned that closing down the mines without following protocols may push the country back to the Stone Age.
He said he could not see human activity humming without metals used in the production of iron, steel, batteries for cellphones, and cars, among others.
He said that the mining industry’s revenues account for .7 to .8 percent to the Gross National Product (GDP) with 2012 estimated at P20.6 billion, 2013 at P24.4 billion, 2014 at P32.7 billion, and 2015 at P29.57 billion.
Lopez is officially deemed by-passed tomorrow because the CA Environment Committee chaired by Sen. Emmanuel Pacquiao will not make a decision to recommend the confirmation of her appointment in today’s last plenary session as the Senate and the House of Representatives go on a six-week recess starting tomorrow.
Pacquiao said his committee will provide a copy of his committee hearing proceedings yesterday to Lopez so that she can have an appreciation of the complaints aired against her.
Lopez will again face the CA members on May 3 when the CA resumes committee hearings. These are held to determine the competence and capability of a presidential nominee before his or her appointment is confirmed or not.
Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV was able to elicit from Secretary Dominguez that there is no time limit given to the President to finally issue a closure order on the mines affected. Before leaving for the US last week, Lopez said all the mines ordered closed or suspended are still operating until they are ordered closed by the President.
Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” G. Ejercito said: “It is not often you find somebody who has the guts to fight the mining titans. Let us not let this opportunity pass. I am inclined to support Secretary Lopez.”
Ejercito said the mines may continue operating if they follow the strict high standards of responsible mining as is being done by Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
Rep. Josephine Y. Ramirez Sato pointed out that Lopez had warned that she would not follow the recommendation of the MICC which she and Dominguez co-chair.
During the CA hearing, Lopez stated that the proposed P50-million appropriation for a review of the operations of all the operating mines once every two years could be done by the DENR itself.
Meanwhile, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) filed a graft complaint against Lopez before the Office of the Ombudsman for closing their operations without due process.
In a nine-page complaint affidavit, COMP accused Lopez of arbitrary closure of their business causing “undue injury” to members and loss of jobs to thousands of workers.
The group also decried the release to the public of the results of DENR investigation on the alleged widespread destruction of mining areas without giving the miners the chance to explain their side.
The group described charges as false and unfounded allegations which destroyed the good name of the business.
But DENR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Maria Paz Luna defended the embattled Lopez and refuted the claims of COMP.
Luna called the COMP’s allegations “baseless,” stressing that they gave the affected mining firms the opportunity to respond to the findings of the DENR.
“The mining companies knew of these audits; they allowed these audits. After the audits were done by the teams, the DENR sent them the audit reports. They had an opportunity to respond with their explanations on the findings of the audit,” Luna said. (With reports from Jun Ramirez and Vanne Elaine P. Terrazola)
courtesy of MANILA BULLETIN
by Mario B. Casayuran
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