Benguet LGUs want direct access to royalties
At the same time, the officials voiced their support for the resumption of operations of Philex Mining Corp.’s Padcal copper-and-gold mine in their province during a recent Senate committee hearing on the issue.
Tuba, Benguet Mayor Florencio Bentrez told a joint hearing of the Senate committees on environment and natural resources and on health and demography that local government units (LGUs) should have direct access to revenues from royalties paid by mining companies to facilitate their use by the communities they were meant to benefit.
Bentrez told the hearing, which was presided by Sen. Serge Osmeña III, that in the past his municipality received its share from the mining proceeds after delays lasting as long as nine months.
Under the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, the national government gets to keep 60 percent of royalties paid by mining firms while 40 percent is cascaded down to the LGUs that host the mining operations.
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau gave the green light to the reopening of Philex’ Padcal site earlier this month to allow the firm to complete a four-month “beaching process” that would strengthen the tailings pond damaged by torrential rains in August 2012.
According to Bentrez, he and Itogon Mayor Oscar Camantiles were thankful for the resumption of Philex’ operations since it would mean the improvement of livelihood in their respective communities.
Meanwhile, Philex spokesperson Michael Toledo said the recently repaired tailings pond needed to be filled with 3.5 million tons of fresh tailings to fill its conical void and create a “beach” in the pond. This will displace accumulated water away from the embankment and into a spillway by the time the rainy season comes in June or July this year.
At the same hearing, Flaviana Hilario, acting deputy administrator of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, said there was “a very high amount of rainfall due to the enhanced southwest monsoon” in Philex’s operating area during the August 2012 accident.
This, Toledo pointed out, boosted the company’s stand that the spill was an “event of force majeure” or was beyond the company’s control, as the rainfall that week was way above the single-day rainfall record of 234.5 millimeters in Padcal over the last 50 years.