‘Illegal’ mining in Zambales depriving gov’t of taxes
The national government, which is seeking a higher share from mining revenues, has lost millions from chromite stockpiles being hauled off by illegal small-scale miners from a mineral reservation in Zambales, stakeholders said.
Consolidated Mines Inc. (CMI) president Benicio Eusebio said in an interview that 82,000 metric tons of chromite ore, valued at P211 million, have been taken by illegal small-scale miners between mid-November 2011 and this month. The miners, allegedly operating with illegal permits from the Zambales provincial government, have so far shipped an estimated 49,000 tons to China at below the right market value, Eusebio said.
“The national government has lost about P10 million in tax revenues, so far, because of the illegal hauling and shipping,” Eusebio said. “If we, the rightful owners of the chromite ore, had been the one to export the ore, we would have paid the national government P10 million in excise taxes and royalty fees since we are operating in a mineral reservation.”
Eusebio earlier accused Zambales Governor Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. of abusing his authority to issue small-scale mining permits on CMI’s mining area in the Sitio Coto mineral reservation. Supposedly, only the national government, through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, can allow mining activities in mineral reservations.
“The Mines and Geosciences Bureau has affirmed that CMI is rightfully operating and that only the MGB should be able to issue permits on operations within the mineral reservation,” Eusebio said. The mining executive said CMI is considering its options but would prefer that the national government resolve this contradiction with the local government.
CMI has written letters to Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje and to the Presidential Action Office. So far, the DENR-Environmental Management Bureau had issued cease-and-desist orders (CDOs) to several of the small-scale miners, such as Camilo Esico, Reynaldo Dait, Dennis Ocon, Efren Melgar, Amor Echon and Jeff Elago. However, the orders were served for noncompliance with Presidential Decree No. 1586, or the Philippine Environmental Impact Statement System Law.
Copies of the orders had Lormelyn Claudio, the EMB director in Central Luzon, telling the small-scale miners, “You are further directed to cease and desist from conducting further mining activities in the area until such time that an environmental compliance certificate is secured from this office.”
Claudio said in a phone interview that the EMB has coordinated with the police and the military to implement the CDOs. “Last week we implemented it but it seems the small-scale miners’ activities have resumed since. We will need to coordinate again on our next course of action,” Claudio said.
On April 20, the Inquirer Central Luzon bureau reported that the Bureau of Customs (BoC) wound not issue clearances to at least six small-scale miners, who were given permits by Ebdane and who were allegedly engaged in the theft of mineral ore in the province.
Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino Biazon had said his agency has a copy of the CDOs issued to small-scale miners by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Biazon said BoC did not issue customs clearances to the vessels that small-scale miners used to ship the mineral ore to China, but apparently the Philippine Ports Authority allowed them to set sail.
The mining problems in the province should be investigated to determine who has the final authority in allowing small-scale miners to ship ore to China, Biazon said.
Biazon had also said the issue had to be resolved soon because the government is losing tax revenues because of the activity.
“The stockpile belongs to CMI and it is being taken with permission and assistance of the provincial government. There is a corresponding penalty for shipping out these mineral ore without customs clearance,” Biazon said.
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