Letter to the Editor
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment
March 11, 2012
The world is not divided between pro-mining and anti-mining camps – there are nuances within these contending factions in the mining debate. When we decry the claims of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) that the Philippines is “getting the highest share from mining revenues” in the world, this is not a blanket opposition to mining. When we say that the Philippines is not getting what it deserves in terms of revenue, social responsibility and environmental safety, this is not a blanket opposition of mining.
The COMP’s claim that the industry is heavily taxed is misleading. What isn’t pointed out are the various loopholes prescribed by the Mining Act of 1995. Companies are allowed by law to repatriate up to 100 percent of their invested capital prior to taxation. They are also given up to 10 years of tax holidays with more creative ways for holiday extension available.
But the 5 percent tax proposal of the government is actually a far cry from what the Philippines deserves from mining. The claim that taxes up to 60 percent of the revenue are collected by the government from mining included various taxes non-exclusive to mining, as opposed to the 30 to 60 percent collected from Australian, Indonesian and Latin American countries where mining is prosperous. A perfunctory look at the Mining Act will tell us that only a 2 percent excise tax is mandated for the government to collect, and 2 to 5 percent is a far cry from 30 to 60 percent.
Are we in blanket opposition to mining in exposing these loopholes in tax collections? Hardly. When the mining industry is contributing only a meager 0.16 percent to our country’s total revenue of 1.2 trillion pesos and contributed a dismal 1.2 percent to our gross domestic product in 2011, it is indicative of the export-oriented and foreign-dominated nature of the mining industry. It is this kind of mining that depletes our finite mineral resources for the benefits of foreign industries and economies.
No amount of taxation can avert this so long as the Mining Act promotes dirt-cheap sale of our mineral patrimony to foreign corporations, stunting our local mineral industry in the process. It is this prioritization of profit that results in lax environmental standards and the trampling of civil, economic, social and cultural rights of mining-affected communities.
Truth is, the resistance to the foreign control and export-orientation of the mining industry are the major arguments against business-as-usual mining. Twelve provincial governments have already banned large-scale mining in their areas. People’s mining conferences in Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao and recently on the national level have been organized in the past months to synthesize the people’s experiences and unifying their campaigns against mining liberalization and plunder.
We call for a progressive and responsible mining industry. This is based on the people’s democratic aspirations for the scrapping of the Mining Act of 1995, the stoppage of foreign and destructive mining operations and the pursuit of a needs-based, domestic-oriented and environmentally-safe mining industry. Simply put, it is an affirmation that the Philippines simply deserves more from mining.