Chamber of Mines: release EO on mining ASAP

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/03 July) — The Chamber of Mines said it would not interpose any objection to the latest revision of President Aquino’s still unreleased executive order on the new mining policy but prodded Malacanang to release it as soon as possible “so that we can all move now.”

Artemio Disini, president of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), said his organization of corporate mining companies “is already agreeable to the current rate (of government share) in the EO but it is really up to government to bring it up already.”

He said the Palace “should release the EO so that we can all move now.”

President Benigno Aquino was supposed to have signed the new EO on the revised mining policy on June 22. In Davao City on June 20, he told reporters the new EO was being fine-tuned as some provisions were superfluous.

June 22 passed but no EO was released.

“If the government really pushes on legislation work  (to update what it wants to be the level of government share), we do agree on the new rate. Just remove the restrictions and moratorium on the operation,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the Forum on Responsible Mining held Tuesday at the Grand Men Seng Hotel here.

He said a change in the rate of government share in mining revenues would need either a legislation or “an agreement between the government and the industry.”

He would not say however, what the rate the government was thinking of on the stipulated excise tax, royalties and profit-sharing.

Current mandated rate is two percent excise tax. This is on top of the 30 percent contractor’s income tax, customs duties and fees, value added tax on imported equipment, goods and services, royalties in mineral reservations, documentary stamp tax, capital gains tax, tax on interest payments to foreign loans and tax on foreign stockholders’ dividends.

The industry is also paying to the host local governments business tax, real property tax, registration fee, occupation fee, community tax and “other local taxes depending on LGUs,” a COMP Powerpoint presentation said.

Disini said the delay in the release of the EO is making the mining industry uncomfortable but he said the other concern of the President on environmental protection was already addressed in previous meetings and discussions with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

“There are enough guidelines already,” he added.

He said the delay has already caused concern among prospective investors. “It’s getting too long already. We also thought the EO was to be issued soon”.

The President ordered a moratorium on mining operations while he ordered his mining team to craft an EO which was apparently prompted by the holding in January this year of an international mining conference among “like-minded” opposition to large-scale mining using open-pit method.  The gathering was held at the Ateneo de Davao University, a member of the Catholic Education Association of the Philippines (CEAP), which publicly declared in its conference last year that it was opposing the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.

Government has projected mining to be a banner revenue-generation industry.

Last year, mining generated P13.7 billion for government.  “This is roughly 10 percent of the total gross revenues of the industry.”

“If the restrictions were lifted, government should expect this share to go up 40 percent to 50 percent more as tax holidays would expire and companies would be paying the exact provision of the law,” he said.

Share would go up still higher if the 17 prospective investors would enter the industry. There are already 17 mining operations in the country, many of them large scale.

The COMP estimated a potential mining wealth in the country reaching $840 billion, or about P47 trillion. This size would be ten times its annual gross domestic product. (MindaNews)