The spokesperson of the Department of Finance (DOF) today asserted that Secretary Carlos Dominguez III’s position on the mining policy of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is founded on the principles of due process of law and non-impairment of contract obligations as enshrined in the 1987 Constitution.
Contrary to the misguided allegation by certain groups that Dominguez is siding with the miners with regard to the DENR’s closure or suspension of mine sites nationwide, Assistant Secretary Paola Alvarez said in a statement that “the DOF Secretary is simply on the side of the Constitution and the law when it comes to this issue.”
Alvarez pointed out that “Secretary Dominguez himself has stressed in a Tuesday news briefing at Malacañang that the only position he supports is that of President Duterte, which is to follow due process and honor all contracts in dealing with all kinds of activities in Government.”
Alvarez pointed out that, “These critics have conveniently left out one major point in this issue, and it is that both Secretary Dominguez and DENR Secretary Regina Lopez have, as co-chairperson of the MICC (Mining Industry Coordinating Council), both signed the Council’s Resolution No. 6 dated Feb. 9 affirming the primacy of procedural and substantive due process in the final resolution of the DENR’s series of actions on the closure or suspension of 28 mines and cancellation of the government’s 75 MPSAs (Mineral Production Sharing Agreements) with mining companies.”
In fact, she said, it is this MICC Resolution No. 6 signed by both Secretaries Lopez and Dominguez that have led to the creation of a Technical Working Group (TWG), which, in turn, formed a week ago five technical teams that would conduct a three-month multi-stakeholder review of the performance of the affected mining projects.
“As agreed upon by the MICC’s TWG in its organizational meeting last Feb. 20, these technical review teams or TRTs are to go over the compliance of the affected mines with applicable agreements, submissions, laws and regulations as well as the technical, legal, social, environmental and economic impact of the DENR’s orders,” Alvarez said.
This MICC action is pursuant to Executive Order No. 79, which provides for the multi-stakeholder review of mining operations once every two years, in consultation with local government units, she added.
A lawyer, Alvarez said that Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution’s Article III on the Bill of Rights states that, “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws,” while Article III’s Section 10 states that, “No law impairing the obligation of contracts shall be passed.”
“Hence, the DOF Secretary is only upholding the principle that nobody can be deprived of life, liberty or property without the appropriate legal procedures and safeguards as enshrined in the fundamental law of the land,” she said.
Alvarez dismissed the critics’ concern about alleged partiality, noting that the multi-stakeholder review will certainly follow an objective or impartial process, given that (1) the TRTs are mandated to take off from the existing reports conducted by Secretary Lopez’s very own DENR’s audit team, and that (2) no representative from the mining industry shall be allowed to take part in the three-month review process.
The five review teams will present their findings to the MICC, which shall then submit its recommendations to the Office of the President, which shall make a final decision on the DENR’s closure and suspension orders, she said.
Alvarez further said that it was only natural for Secretary Dominguez and several more Cabinet members to be concerned about the impact of the DENR’s actions on local employment and finance, considering that estimates by the DOF-attached Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF) show that the closure and suspension orders will cost 17 affected cities and municipalities in 10 provinces over P821 million annually in foregone revenues.
Three of these municipalities—Carrascal in Surigao del Norte, Tagana-an in Surgao del Norte and Tubajon in Dinagat Islands—will lose revenues representing over 50 percent of their current operating income if the affected mine sites are shut down or forced to suspend operations.
BLGF estimates show that Carrascal will lose P198.3 million of its mining revenues, which represent 62.3 percent of its total operating income, while Tagana-an will lose P70.3 million or 54 percent of its total operating income. Tubajon will shed P38 million, or 55.4 percent of its total operating income if the DENR order is implemented.
Of this amount, local collections of the affected LGUs from mining firms amounted to P340 million, comprising real property taxes (RPTs) of P53.54 million, P263.13 million from business tax, fees, charges and other local charges, and P23.29 million from provincial revenues.
The share of the affected LGUs from mining taxes collected by the national government account for P481.17 million.
Aside from the two Surigao provinces and Dinagat islands, the other provinces affected by the closure or suspension orders are Benguet, Nueva Vizcaya, Palawan, Cebu, Bulacan, Zambales and Eastern Samar.
BLGF’s estimates do not include yet the projected income losses of the LGUs that host 75 mine sites whose MPSAs were ordered cancelled by the DENR.
Alvarez recalled that shortly after the DENR’s actions, Dominguez had discussed with the heads of the Office of the Cabinet Secretary and the Departments of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and Trade and Industry (DTI) how to address the impact of these closure and suspension orders on jobs and LGU revenues in the areas hosting the affected mining projects.
In these informal discussions, Alvarez bared that DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo had said that her department will carry out a census to determine the extent of the jobs displacement, while Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco hadsuggested providing jobs under the government’s national greening program.
DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III had informed the DOF secretary that emergency employment can be provided to displaced workers but only for a temporary time and in limited volume, while DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez said he will also pitch in proposals on how to generate jobs in the affected areas , Alvarez said.
DPWH Secretary Mark Villar, meanwhile, had said that he will look into additional projects in communities hardest hit by the closure of mining operations so that jobs for the laid-off workers can be provided under a proposed supplemental budget, she added.