By Pet Melliza/ The Beekeeper
Antique holds the largest coal deposit in the Philippines, if not the world, yet how come this province remains poor and its people wretched?
During the incumbency of Gov. Salvacion Perez, the province clinched a favorable court decision of more than P700 million in real property tax arrears of DMCI, owner of the coal mine.
Perez finished her three straight terms without collecting a centavo from the company.
DMCI insists, and so won with that argument on appeal, that the situs of its taxation is in Manila as the taxing power is the national, not local government unit.
Antique is also entitled by the Local Government Code, to its share in the exploitation of its mineral resources – coal — but always ends up holding an empty bag.
To DMCI the power, the glory and profits; to Antique the misery and dangers engendered by the open pit mining that already poisoned a sizeable area in the surrounding and rendered it unfit for fish and weed farming, and recreation.
Mining remains a touchy issue on Panay Island, a highly mineralized island, rich in copper, gold, bauxite and manganese, among others.
We don’t argue that we do need minerals to develop domestic industries and we need to extract them from the bowels of our mountains. We need to exploit our mineral resources for national survival.
But something is afoot with the way mining is done in the Philippines, as consequence of its semi-feudal and semi-colonial set up.
Mining operations in the country is no different from Semirara: only a handful profit from them. The Filipinos’ natural wealth has become exclusive property of mining companies, most of them foreign-owned. The people get nothing but misery as their sources of livelihood are lost or poisoned – rivers and streams that used to provide them fish and irrigation, their seas, and forests.
The web based “bulatlat.com”, reports that mining already poisoned the Palawan river system with high level of carcinogenic and toxic effluents.
Quoting Friends of the Earth Japan (FoE-Japan) and Kalikasan People’s Network for the Enviroment” bulatlat.com identified the likely culprits as the Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation and the Coral Bay Nickel Processing Plant.
The study, begun in 2009, notes level of hexavalent chromium (Cr-VI), a toxic and carcinogenic chemical levels along the Togupon River ranging from 0.1 to 0.3 milligrams per liter (mg/l), which is beyond the country’s standard of 0.1 to 0.2 mg/l and Japan’s 0.05 mg/l.
A pair of bureaucrats last year regaled Antiquenos that their hope for survival rests on mining as the province sits on fabulous mineral wealth awaiting to be tapped.
As rejoinder, learn from Semirara and Palawan.
Foreign mining companies laugh their way to the bank while the people are left on their own in the face of natural calamities wrought by the ecological degradation.
Foreign monopoly capitalists and their Filipino partners chant the mantra of mining as way to develop the country. They brand environmentalists “anti-development” for opposing them.
Foreign monopoly capitalists are assured super-profits by Congress that enacted RA 7942 or the Mining Act of 1995 that opened the country’s mineral resources to plunder and rape.
That unbridled magnanimity accorded by government on mining firms reduces government share to mere pittance in Section 80 of RA 7942 that reads in full, thus:
The total government share in a mineral production sharing agreement shall be the excise tax on mineral products as provided in Republic Act No. 7729, amending Section 151(a) of the National Internal Revenue Code, as amended.
An excise tax is levied on goods for sale within the country like cigarettes, alcohol and softdrinks in contrast to duty on imports.
Mining already flattened mountains in Northern Mindanao but the region is still among the poorest in the country because of government bias for despoilers.
Section 151 (a) reduces the excise tax that RA 7729 or the National Internal Revenue Code originally imposes on metals and non-metallic minerals.
For example, government share from the coal dug from Semirara is only P10 per metric ton.
Government charges a measly two percent tax of the gross on non-metallic minerals.
For metallic minerals, the amendment sets government share at only one-percent for the first three years,
one-and-a-half percent on the fourth year, and thereafter, 2 %.
That’s a pittance compared to the 10 % tax on income of ordinary laborers.