Philippine president's new mining policy opposed

Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - At least 40 anti-mining governors would challenge before the Supreme Court the Aquino administration¿s mining policy upon its signing by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, Albay Governor Joey Salceda said.

Salceda said local government executives would oppose the mining policy that was supposed to be signed by President Aquino on Friday but was placed on hold because it put them in an adversarial position to the national government. It would also dismiss their autonomy and independence in favor of national laws and regulations on the mining industry, Salceda said.

According to the Albay governor, a member of the ruling Liberal Party, the mining policy stresses that the national laws take primacy over local laws and ordinances. As such, the national government can override anti- or pro-mining laws set by local executives.

¿We consider that provocative. In other words, it¿s not conducive to a productive national conversation on the policy," Salceda said in a forum organised by the International Women¿s Media Forum recently.

¿It will breed inequality of income and assets, it will destroy the countryside. It¿s definitely anti-rural, that EO is anti-LGU," Salceda said.

He noted that at least 40 provinces have passed ordinances that restrict, regulate or oppose mining, especially metallic mining and large-scale mining. Albay currently has not been accepting mining applications, he said.

The executive order, Salceda said, could not invalidate their ordinances against mining. If the order was signed with this provision, local government executives would definitely go to the Supreme Court to strike it, he said.

¿Forty governors are opposing it," he noted.

¿An executive order does not destroy an ordinance, they have to bring it to the Supreme Court to do a short cut. That executive order will not make our ordinances disappear because they are articulation of democratic aspirations," he explained.

Salceda said Malaca?ang knew of their opposition to the mining policy. This could be the reason why the President has not signed it yet, he said.

The resistance from the local executives came at an awkward time for the administration. It needs as much support as it can muster from the local governments to keep its power in the provinces for the mid-term local elections in 2013.

Local governments distrust the national government and the mining companies because they have not felt the benefits brought by mining activities, Salceda said, adding that profit-sharing between the local and national branches are skewed to the latter.

His province, for instance, which hosts the Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project, only received 3.4 million pesos (US$80,300) from the mining company¿s revenues. The company¿s export value reached 7.7 billion pesos ($181.9 million).

¿It is a failure when it comes to inter-generational sharing of resources. The basic principle why you allow mining is because it is for everyone including the next generation. Therefore, you should be able to raise sufficient revenues so that future generations would benefit from it," said Salceda, a former member of the Arroyo economic team.

¿The revenues you raise could be invested in things that would benefit at least three generations after you, like roads, bridges, enterprise development. But you can¿t do that with 3.4 million pesos," he said.

Salceda said the mining industry¿s track record in the Philippines has been in tatters, with most of the provinces with big mines also being the poorest, he said. Previous mining companies have also failed to rehabilitate their abandoned mine sites.

Furthermore, mining operations, which are often militarised, breed tension in communities.

Salceda also called on Mines and Geosciences Bureau Director Leo Jasareno to resign from his post, saying Jasareno should regulate, not promote, mining activities.

President Aquino was supposed to sign the much-delayed and long-awaited executive order last Friday. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which was in charge of the order, initially planned it to be issued in early 2012. The original plan was to have a comprehensive mining policy that would spell out new regulatory and tax rules for the mining companies.

But last February, this plan was shelved. Instead, it was announced that Malaca?ang would only issue a policy statement that would lay out the administration¿s direction on the mining sector. It also did away with controversial provisions on the valuation of natural wealth and taxation, pending more legal studies on these matters.

COPYRIGHT: ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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