Breaktime

Mining your own business

A+
A
A-

For quite some time now, some self-styled watchers of the environment are feeding us this rather sweeping claim against big mining companies: that our economy can actually do without them.

 

The thing is, our heroic watchers do not bother to substantiate such a claim. On the contrary, the Aquino (Part II) administration states that, as a policy, it considers new investments in mining as vital to our economy.

 

The administration policy in effect obliterates the very claim of our so-called watchers about this economically useless mining industry that is unable to help solve poverty in this country where about 40 million, and still counting, are considered “poor.”

 

The big mining boys remain the only targets of our brave watchers—not the administration, not the small mining firms. Only the big mining companies—exclusively!

 

While our professed watchers signify that they are only looking after the common good, it seems they are exercising selective minding of other people’s business in the name of the environment.

 

Studies proved that small mining firms were the biggest violators of environmental laws, particularly in their use of mercury and other toxic materials to extract gold.

 

The fact remains that the big mining boys spend hundreds of millions of pesos a year to take care of the communities in their mine sites, including their compliance with the safety nets imposed by the government.

 

Openly attacking those guerilla-type small mining operations was held as dangerous. For one, they enjoyed the backing of well-armed syndicates, made up of foreign hit-and-run poachers and LGU officials with their private armies.

 

To top it all, the avid watchers of our interests keep quiet about other environment issues, such as those concerning the businesses of the Lopez family, to which belongs the poster girl of the antimining movement, none other than celebrity Gina Lopez.

 

In the town called Brooke’s Point in Palawan, for instance, indigenous people accused the outfit Bantay Kalikasan (under the ABS-CBN Foundation) of desecrating their tribal ground for the real estate project associated with Lopez.

 

Her outfit cut down trees in the area called Sabsaban Falls and then put up cottages, reportedly for rent at P25,000 a day. Subsequently, the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) claimed the outfit did not have the permit that the law required on any project in the Palawan forest. The DENR said it would investigate the whole thing. Nothing happened.

 

Our stout-heart watchers did not even make a whisper in media about the complaints of the tribal people.  Not even a mumble!

 

It turned out that ABS-CBN Foundation had this fat multimillion peso contracts with the city government of Puerto Princesa, tying up the foundation’s media facilities in a campaign to promote Palawan as an eco-tourism place.

 

The city actually forged the deal years ago during the time of Mayor Edward Hagedorn, and perhaps as an expected twist of the eco-tourism campaign, the group of Gina Lopez suddenly found themselves aligned with antimining groups in the province.

 

Thus the Save Palawan Movement, started by former Mayor Hagedorn, went to bed with some radical groups, led by the Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment (PNE), which reinvented themselves as environment activist groups.

 

Inspired by the inaction of the government—the DENR in particular—everybody just kept quite about the complaint of the lowly poor tribal groups in Brooke’s Point.

 

***

 

The SEC en banc, meaning the bosses at the Securities and Exchange Commission, reportedly decided to liquidate the assets of the Uniwide group, which some years ago was the biggest retail business in this country.

 

Surprisingly, the SEC decided to kill the business even after some 14 years of Uniwide being under SEC receivership, ever since Uniwide ran to the SEC for help to bring itself back to financial health during the Asian financial crisis in 1997.

 

Please, ladies and gentlemen, take note of that: the government agency on top of the Uniwide rehabilitation was none other than the SEC. And now, after 14 long years, time enough for four administrations in the Palace, the SEC deems Uniwide as a hopeless case. Question: Do you think the SEC did a chaotic crummy dirty job in the rehab?

 

It all started when, in 1999, two years into the Asian financial crisis, Uniwide announced it could not meet its debt payments, just like many businesses in the country and the whole of Asia at that time.

 

The SEC even found the Uniwide rehab to be highly achievable, considering that its assets of prime properties were worth almost P20 billion (at 1999 prices, mind you) with only P11 billion in total obligations.

 

Uniwide had cash flow problem. No enough cash came into the business to pay for the maturing debts. Uniwide needed the SEC as referee with the banks as it tried to recover from the shock of the Asian financial crisis.

 

Besides, Uniwide had milestone successes in the retail business, starting in 1975 when Jimmy Gow (the founder) put up the first Uniwide textile bargain store in Binondo. He was able to parlay the store into other business lines such as the first warehouse clubs in the country (some 10 of them), and real estate ventures such as Naic Resources and Development, Uniwide Sales Realty and Resources, and First Paragon.

 

At its height, the Uniwide retail outfits had some 3,000 employees, with a yearly cash flow of about P20 billion. It was the biggest retail business in the country at that time.

 

When Uniwide sought the SEC rehab program, then SEC Chair Perfecto Yasay Jr. appointed a receivership committee—made up of Monico Jacob, Arthur Aguilar and Cornelio Peralta—to keep Uniwide assets intact.

 

Subsequently, under SEC receivership, Uniwide started to lose its precious assets through various dacion en pago arrangements made by the SEC receiver with the banks, with the valuation of the assets left to the discretion of the banks, according to Uniwide.

 

Besides, the group claimed it had coughed up much-needed cash to cover the fees charged by the SEC receivership committee, on top of the handsome payments to the SEC “advisers” on the rehab plan.

 

To top it all, the receivership committee charged a “commission” of 2 percent of the total amount of cash that went into Uniwide, with or without the committee’s efforts.

 

The biggest beef of Uniwide was the supposed “white knight,” a French retail company called Casino Guichard Perrachon, which the SEC receivership pushed to the group as its savior.

 

It turned out that, instead of infusing cash into the company, the French wanted to buy the entire Uniwide group for P5 billion, although Uniwide put the publicly listed shares owned by the Gow family at close to P30 billion.

 

Besides, the purchase price—as pushed by the SEC big shots in the receivership—was not even be enough to pay Uniwide’s debts, forcing the group to reject the “white knight” deal peddled by the SEC.

 

Surprise—the SEC now claims the group’s liabilities totaled about P12 billion versus its assets of only P2.7 billion, although its “Metromall” (a four-storey mall a on 5-hectare prime property) was already worth at least P3 billion some years ago.

 

All of a sudden the SEC proclaimed that Uniwide was beyond redemption, now calling for its liquidation.

 

And all this after 14 years under the care of the SEC receivership, in a supposed rehab program devised by advisers hired by the SEC for handsome fees and was implemented by the supposed top executives appointed by the SEC itself.

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of INQUIRER.net. We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • Mark Mandanas

    It’s funny how people here talk about the communities affected when it is the communities themselves who are speaking out for the some of the mining companies in the area. Environmentalists used to say that they were speaking on behalf of the affected communities up until the communities themselves came forward and said these guys do NOT represent our sentiments.

  • DGuardian

    Wala na ba tayong ititirang mga mineral resources sa mga darating na henerasyon? Bakit haplit na ipinagpapamigayan at ipinapaubos ang ating mga likas na yaman sa mga pribadong Pilipino at mga dayuhan na nagsasamantala sa ating mga mineral resources? Ano ang ipapakita at iiwanan nating katibayan ng mga naipagawa, naipatayo at naidulot na konkretong pakinabang ng panagpamigayan at ipinaubos na mga likas na yaman ng Pilipinas? Kung tayo ang mangailangan ng mga ores na ito sa ibang panahon, saan na tayo kukuha? Kahit ang salapi ay iniimpok at hindi winawaldas. Bakit hindi pangalagaan ng gobyerno ng Pilipinas at ng mga Pilipino ang mga likas na yaman ng bansang ito? Aling bansa sa Asia ang gumagawa ng ganitong paglustay at kawalang pagpapahalaga sa likas na yaman? Kung talagang ayaw papigil ang gobyernong ito na i-mina ang ating mga resources, dapat ay magtayo ang Pamahalaan ng sariling national mining company na mag-e-explore at mag-e-exploit sa ating mga mineral resources imbes na ipagpamigayan sa mga local and foreign miners. Kahit ang China ay ang sariling national mining company lamang nito ang puwedeng mag-mina sa naturang bansa.

  • DGuardian

    Ano ang nagawa ng kakarampot na kinikita ng mining para sa kapakanan ng mga Pilipino? Ang 10 billion pesos na kinikitang tax mula sa mining ng gobyerno ay ginagamit lamang sa mga pork barrels ng mga senador at kongresista pati na sa kanilang mga suweldo buwan-buwan, travel allowances na kalahating milyon yearly, salaries ng kani-kaniyang staff at office supplies na 2.2 million pesos monthly bawat senador at katumbas ding halaga ng bawat kongresista, Christmas bonus na 2.2 million pesos bawat isa bukod pa sa 200 million pesos por barrel each senator at 70 million pesos pork barrel each congressman taun-taon, bukod pa sa mga perks na bigay ng Senate President at ng House Majority Floor Leader sa kanila. Para silang tumatama ng superjackpot sa Lotto taun-taon. Ang PAGCOR, noong wala pa ang Solaire Casino and Resort, ay kumikita ng 3.3 hanggang 3.6 billion pesos monthly. Ikumpara natin ang kita ng PAGCOR sa kita ng mining kung saan napakaliit na ay winawasak pa ang ating kapaligiran, nagdudulot ng sakit, at ninanakaw lamang at hindi ipinagbabayad ng buwis ang 97% hanngang 100% na minerals na na-i-extract ng mga dishonest na miners.

  • DGuardian

    Katumbas ba ng giveaway na 25 excise tax at 5% royalty tax na may kabuuang 7% ang mga masasamang epektong dulot ng mining sa mga komunidad at inhabitants pati na mga native fauna and flora at sa topography ng mga lugar na minimina? Ang environment o mga kapaligiran ng Pilipinas ay dapat protektahan at ingatan dahil ito ang bansang titirahan o kung saan isisisilang at mabubuhay ang mga libu-libo pang bilang ng mga henerasyong Pilipino. Hindi nagtatapos ang Pilipinas sa ating henerasyon. Mag-e-exist pa ito ng libu-libong mga taon hanggang dumating na muli ang Panginoong Hesus sa lupa para sa paghuhukom. Bakit haplit na inuubos ng current at ng mga preceding administrations ang mga likas na yaman ng Pilipinas? Taong 1946 pa lamang binigyan ng America ng independence ang Pilipinas, subali’t papaubos na ang ating mga mineral resources na ipinagpapamigayan sa giveaway na 7% tax at kadalasan ay ninanakaw lamang ng mga Chinese illegal miners at ng mga Filipino dummies nila.

  • DGuardian

    Ang mga indigenous inhabitants at animals ng mga komunidad na minimina ay nadi-displaced. Madalas na nagiging extinct ang mga indigenous fauna and flora ng nasabing mga lugar. Maging big mining o small mining companies man ang nag-mimina, hindi sila sumusunod sa mga mining guidelines, regulations, at laws sa sandaling they are on their own at walang sinumang mga taga-gobyerno na nakabantay sa kanila. Wala silang regard and concern sa kaligtasan ng mga residents o para mapanatili ang kagandahan ng kapaligiran. Walang pangingimi at takot nilang itinatapon ang mga toxic wastes mula sa kanilang mining operations sa mga paligid na lupa at maging sa mga waterways. Nagdudulot ito ng mga iba’t iba at kadalasan ay mga malulubhang sakit sa mga nakatira, lalo na sa mga kabataan na siyang mas susceptible sa mga malignant diseases na dulot ng mga toxic chemicals na ito.

  • DGuardian

    Bakit hindi tututol ang mga environmentalists sa mining? Ang mining ay malawakang ginigiba at tandisang winawasak ang kapaligiran sa iba’t ibang lugar ng Pilipinas. Sobrang devastation ang ginagawa ng mining sa topography ng mga towns and provinces ng ating bansa. Pati mga black sand o magnetic ores sa mga coastal areas ng Pilipinas tulad ng Cagayan, Ilocos Norte at Sur, Leyte, at marami pang iba ay illegal o panakaw nilang minimina. Nawawala ang malaking mga bahagi ng ating mga shorelines at lumiliit ang total land area ng Pilipinas. Recently ay dalawang foreign vessels na hinihinalang Chinese ang nag-mina ng black sand noong June 27th hanggang Julys 1st sa Camiguin Norte ng Babuyan Islands. Sinasabi ng mga nakatira sa nasabing lugar na walang mining permit ang mga ito, subali’t sobrang lakas ng mga loob na nag-nakaw ng ating magnetic ores ang mga banyaga sa loob ng 5 araw. Sabi ng isang opisyal ng Bureau of Mines and Geosciences ng DENR ay hindi iyon nalaman ng mga Coast Guards dahil “walang port at bapor doon” ang mga Coast Guards. Bakit walang Coast Guards na nagbabantay sa Babuyan Islands?

  • DGuardian

    Ang kailangan na gawin ni Presidente Aquino ay ang mag-impose ng TOTAL MINING BAN. Ang mga big at small mining companies at ang lahat na illegal miners ay dapat nang tumigil sa ginagawa nilang plunder sa mga mineral resources ng Pilipinas. Hindi totoo ang sinasabi ng article na ito na ang mga environmentalists na tumututol sa mining ay ang mga big mining companies lamang ang binabatikos. Tutol sila sa parehong big at small mining companies na mag-exploit ng mineral resources ng Pilipinas na karamihan ay nandadaya sa quantity ng kanilang na-extract na ores at ayaw ibayad ng giveaway na 7% tax sa gobyerno. Ang mga foreign miners naman na mostly Chinese ay 3% lamang ang idinideklara at ang 97% tulad ng sa ginto ay ini-smuggle patungong Hong Kong o iba pang panig ng China. Pinababayaan itong magpatuloy ng ating gobyerno. Ang mga small-scale miners naman ay totally na hindi idini-declare at hindi ibinanabayad ng taxes ang mga na-extract nilang minerals or ores.

  • Calvin Santos

    To these hypocrites, attacking big mining pays greater dividends because a) it’s a soft target because they play by the rules and aren’t violent, and b) it will mean greater media exposure to the pseudo-environmentalists.

    As for the other Lopez-owned businesses, you must be referring to the EDC gas plant (fatal landslide) and West Tower (fuel leak contamination).

    The day these people attack illegal miners and local officials coddling them will be the day they will have earned some credibility. For now, though, they are little more than Gina Lopez’s self-propaganda machine.

  • Weder-Weder Lang

    01. The MVP-Lopez battle royale

    02. Good bye Mr. Gaw. Wawa naman u, gawgaw na lang natira.

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94