Gov’t must implement mining laws
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III yesterday reiterated that as mandated under the law, the government would implement mining rules and regulations, whether critics like it or not.
Dominguez said that “those who have a beef with the country’s laws that allow mining should do themselves a favor by working on having them repealed or amended by the Congress rather than training their guns on those who believe it is part of their duty as civil servants to uphold the laws of the land.”
“If certain quarters think the law is unfair, they should work to change the law, as violation of the laws is not an option for any government official or any good citizen for that matter,” according to Dominguez, who co-chairs the interagency Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC).
Last week, Dominguez had noted that “one could be environment-friendly and business-friendly at the same time. They are not mutually exclusive inclinations (and only) the zealots think they are.”
The local mining industry took center stage under the Duterte administration following the appointment of environmentalist Regina Lopez as secretary of environment and natural resources.
In February, Lopez ordered the closure of 23 mining operations as well as the suspension of five others in 10 provinces. She later also ordered the cancellation of 75 mineral production sharing agreements entered into by the government with mining companies.
Affected firms had complained that Lopez’s orders were issued without due process, although she had claimed that the companies had been informed about the audits.
Lopez’s appointment as head of the DENR, however, was rejected by the Commission on Appointments earlier this month.
For his part, Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin said: “We are a government of laws, not of men. The Mining Act sets the terms and conditions under which mining should be conducted as well as the conditions for its suspension or cancellation. It is the duty of government officials to implement the law.”
Agabin added that “if [critics] think this [mining law] is unfair, then they should go to Congress to have it amended.”
Last week, Dominguez said the Duterte administration “will be firm but fair” while also ensuring good and strong governance in order to attract more investments in the extractive industries as well as assure sustainable forestry and mining.
“[The administration] is committed to bring forth strong, but not arbitrary, governance. It will abide by global best practices in ensuring sustainable development. All these become possible because of transparency in our processes,” Dominguez said.
“Never again should suspensions be meted out on the basis of unseen audits. Never again should honest industries be subjected to levies without legal basis,” according to Dominguez.
The MICC, co-chaired by the finance and environment secretaries, is currently undertaking a three-month review of Lopez’s orders on top of the review of all other mining contracts across the country as mandated under the law.
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