By Chito Chavez
Militant group Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) has challenged the supposed promotion of large-scale mining in the country through policy and advocacy works.
The group is an alliance of more than a hundred people’s organizations, Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), national environmental groups, Church groups and academic institutions.
In a statement, ATM noted that Congress has “gifted the mining industry with lower taxes and royalty payments, with the passage of HB 8400 (An Act Establishing the Fiscal Regime for the Mining Industry) last October 10, 2018’’.
ATM added in the same statement the House Committee on Ways and Means passed the bill sponsored by Rep. Estrellita Suansing, Chairperson of the committee to “reportedly’’ replace HBs 422 and 7994.
Caryl Pillora ATM Policy Research and Advocacy Officer said key provisions of the measure include the imposition of a three-percent royalty tax on large-scale mining operations located within the mining reservation areas per Mining and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) recommendation.
She noted HB 8400 also imposes royalty tax on small scale mining operations and a margin-based royalty tax on large scale mining operations outside the mining reservations.
Based on the 2016 PH EITI report, it is projected that the government will gain an additional 1.8 billion revenue from the TRAIN Law’s increase. “However, we also think that this is not enough, considering that the mining industry has profited so much already from the state’s resources but were not able to sufficiently contribute back to the society,’’ ATM said.
For the “measly taxes and payments we get from mining’’, ATM claimed the government’s revenue from minerals will be reduced with “the environmental, health and social costs that the country bears is too much’’.
“We welcome new taxes for mining operations with the intent that communities and the whole country can benefit from the revenues of extracting minerals. However, we support the proposition that new taxes must be based on gross revenue, and not only in margins of income of mining companies,’’ the group added.
Pillora said the already miserable state of losing out on mining revenues will be worsened with the passage of this bill, as TRAIN 2 (TRABAHO) will lower corporate income taxes, including those of mining companies.
She noted the new excise tax rates approved under the TRAIN law is not sufficient to address the demand of EO 79, which is that a new fiscal regime on mining must be passed.
“A new fiscal regime on mining includes new rules on royalties, a tax on super profit or windfall profits, increased social development funds and increased rehabilitation and decommissioning funds. In support of SOS Yamang Bayan Network which lobby for the Alternative Minerals Management Bill (AMMB), we believe that the excise tax is the most strategic type of taxation the government shall explore in the taxation of mining industry,’’ the group insisted.
ATM said the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) should not forget that other conditions remain in place that justify the moratorium saying it should first issue publicly the “no-go zones” map and decide with finality the closure and suspension orders issued by former DENR Secretary Gina Lopez.
“In effect, this new substitute bill lowered the payments of large-scale mining operations in mineral reservations. It would have been more just if all large-scale mining operations were levied a 10% royalty payment requirement, based on gross revenues,’’ the ATM statement read.
ATP said it supports the provision that a ban on open-pit mining was introduced in the substitute bill but “we don’t believe that Congress will eventually pass that specific provision’’.
“At most, we can expect that at the final stages of passing this bill, that provision that bans open-pit mining will be scrapped by a bicameral committee,’’ it concluded. The ATM is usually invited to the hearings. ATM, a member of the Bantay Kita, sits as a regular member in the PH-EITI.