BY PET MELLIZA/ THE BEEKEEPER
Ms. Sally Perez, then governor of Antique (2001-2010), declared the good news that the province would reap at least P400 million in unpaid real property taxes from Semirara Coal Corporation.
That never materialized. The giant company that raked billions of dollars from the coal of Semirara succeeded in skirting its obligation. The Austrian company Alpine Voechst, majority owner of the mine simply packed up with its billions and left a vast swath of human misery caused by its plunder of Antique’s coal.
It sold its interests to DMMCI of the Consunji group of companies which merely continues the plunder until today without paying Antiquenos a single centavo in real property tax and business tax. It refuses to compensate for the destruction of the environment and the human misery it caused.
Journalist Ely Suyum, writing for the local weekly News Express in the late ‘80s, noted that Semirara Island, Caluya town, Antique, was once comparable to Boracay in terms of beauty. Its beaches had white sand, its sea and vegetation prestine and marine and land wildlife abundant.
Its clean sea gives additional wealth as people farmed seaweeds and made salt.
Today, the island is shorn of vegetation, its shores blackened by coal sludge that continues to expand across the sea. The flourishing seaweed farming and salt making industry is gone as its sea is contaminated by toxic wastes.
Where is “development” as promised by charlatans in government posturing as lobbyists for multi-national corporations?
Last week, several charlatans again surfaced to twaddle on development. We don’t have to mention names here for the time being. They correctly observed that Antique lags behind in development. Their prescription though to save Antique is as revolting as the looks of Virginia Palanca-Santiago (regional director of the Office of the Ombudsman – Western Visayas but whose shadow is seldom seen in her office in Iloilo City).
They correctly note that the mountains of Antique abounds with minerals but wrongly recommend of consigning Antique’s wealth, and subsequently the fate of its 600,000 people, to the hands of foreign plunderers and their local lackeys.
Atty. Joebert Pahilga, who could have been a mayor in one Antyique town, has all the reasons to denounce government officials for pimping for multinational companies poised to rape his province.
My FaceBook friend Ms. Delotavo is right in shouting: “No to mining in Antique!”
Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution states that all mineral resources in the Philippines are owned by the State. However, in 1995, a certain Sen. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo sponsored RA 7942 or the Mining Act of the Philippines that by opened the entire country for plunder by foreign corporations given the right to open-pit mining, clean-cut vegetations, and expropriate lands owned by Filipinos in the course of their operations.
Cause-oriented groups challenged the constitutionality of RA 7942 but the Supreme Court ruled in favor of foreign plunders stating that the Philippine Government, after all, did not surrender its sovereign ownership of the mineral resources. It merely acted like a board of directors who gave only the management but not the ownership of the mineral, to giant corporations.
NEDA boss Romulo Neri estimated the mineral resources in 2004 at P47 trillion. Under RA 7942, the Philippine share to that is equivalent to the excise tax being charged on alcohol and cigarettes, that is a measly two percent of the proceeds.
Our own leaders are making jackasses of us. From 1995 to 2011, the country’s mineral product exports reached $200 billion. The country’s share from that is P40 million.
Plundering the country’s mineral resources benefited only a handful but brings misery to the majority, the way it happened in Surigao del Norte whose mountains are flattened to scoop its nickel and iron for shipment to China, Australia and Japan. The province remains one of the poorest in the country. The three leading groups, the Taganito Mining Corporation, Platinum Group Metals Corporation and THPAL Mining Company all dominated by Sumitumo of Japan, made $3 billion last year.
We all know what happened to mining in Surigao del Norte: NPA guerillas attacked the three companies October 3, destroying P3 billion worth of heavy equipment and barges.