FINANCE Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said Wednesday Environment Secretary Regina Lopez’s decision to close or suspend 28 mining companies would be reviewed despite her bid to have it suspended.
“Yes, the mining review will continue,” Dominguez said at the sidelines of the general membership meeting of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Makati City where he was the keynote speaker.
Lopez earlier this week asked President Rodrigo Duterte to suspend review by the Mining Industry Coordinating Council, a Cabinet oversight body that she co-chairs with Dominguez.
In her memo, Lopez said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, not the MICC, had the power to review the operations of mining companies.
Dominguez earlier said the government, through the Budget Department, would allot P50 million for a three-month review of mining operations.
In the wake of Lopez’s decision to cancel 75 mineral production sharing agreements with mining companies, Dominguez assured businessmen at the PCCI meeting that the government would honor the contracts it signed.
“If they [mining companies] found that due process was not followed, they will sue the government. So we will pay what the courts ask us to pay... and we will honor that if we lose,” Dominguez said.
“I don’t want to lose. I want to make sure that due process is followed in this closure or suspension of mining operations. And it is not only damages, there are clauses in the individual contracts that may cause us liabilities abroad. So we are very concerned about that and we are pushing ahead with the review of all actions taken by the Secretary-designate [Lopez],” Dominguez said.
Earlier, Duterte threatened to impose a total ban on mining and accused some mining companies who opposed Lopez’s appointment as DENR secretary of funding the opposition to destabilize his administration.
Before the Commission on Appointments, Dominguez had warned that it would take five years to cover the government’s revenue shortfall from Lopez’s decision to close 23 mining companies and cancel 75 mineral production sharing agreements without due process.
At a caucus of the Commission on Appointments committee on environment and natural resources, Dominguez told lawmakers they would have to look for more revenue sources to cover the shortfall.
He said the government collected P20.6 billion in taxes from mining in 2012, P24.4 billion in 2013; P32.7 billion in 2014; and P29.57 billion in 2015.
“It will be very difficult for us to immediately cover this shortfall,” said Dominguez.
He also expressed concern for the thousands of workers—as many as 200,000, he said—would be unemployed if the mines were shut down. This didn’t add all the people and industries that rely on mining, he added.
Lopez, who was again bypassed by the panel chaired by Senator Manny Pacquiao, has drawn flak for imposing her own standards--such as “social justice”--in ordering the closure of mining operations.
Dominguez told the panel Lopez failed to consult critical stakeholders when she unilaterally decided to stop mining.
“DoLE [Department of Labor and Employment] said they were not consulted. I believe the DSWD [Department of Social Welfare and Development] also said they were not consulted,” Dominguez said.
“I think there was some kind of failure in the charge of due process,” he said.
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