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Conjectures and insinuations

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Conjectures and insinuations

/ 12:14 AM May 19, 2017

We write with great concern about the unreasonable column of Prof. Solita Monsod titled “Resource Curse” (Opinion, 5/13/17). We wonder how she discarded all semblance of objectivity or fact-checking as expected from a professor and media personality of her stature when she questioned the speech of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III before the Philippine Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (PH-EITI) National Conference, where he said: “Never again should suspensions be meted out on the basis of unseen audits and never again should honest industries be subjected to levies without legal basis.”

Monsod’s reference to Gina Lopez as the person alluded to by Dominguez only confirms the widely held views that the mining audits were made without due process and there were illegal imposition of levies to mining companies as condition to allowing them to export their commodities. These two issues surfaced during the confirmation hearing of the former secretary designate, which she miserably failed to address and which may have been the reason she was rejected as secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Pitting the interest of the miners against the farmers and fisherfolk is uncalled for because they all have important roles to play in the economic development of the country. Insinuating vested or commercial interest in the Commission on Appointments’ rejection of Lopez is a direct assault on the integrity and objectivity of the CA members, particularly those who openly stood their ground in saying she is not fit for the position of DENR secretary. Producing documents to justify that there was due process after the industry sought the intervention of the Office of the President indicated arbitrariness attached to the issuance of the cancellation/suspension orders in the first place. Stay orders on the closure and suspension would not have been given by the Office of the President if the basis on which the closure and suspension orders were made was legal and fully justified.

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Levies or compensation for damages are provided for in several environmental contingent funds (Mine waste and Tailings fees, Mine Rehabilitation Fund, Contingent Liability and Rehabilitation Funds, Final Mine Rehabilitation and Decommissioning Fund, Monitoring Trust Fund, Environmental Guarantee Fund, Environmental Trust Fund, etc.) as required in the Mining Act and its implementing rules and regulations. Imposing levies without basis in law (outside of the Mining Act) is patently illegal and indicates lack of knowledge of the industry’s laws and processes.

If we were to agree with Monsod’s articulation of Lopez’s belief that the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) audit (which was approved and given a go signal by the President) is illegal because they both presume the audit is solely the mandate of the DENR, then who will review and evaluate the highly suspicious audit? Did she not know that the MICC resolution calling for a review of the audit was written by her husband, Christian Monsod, and signed by Lopez?

Monsod did mention some good points in her column when she said that one of Lopez’s last better acts was to issue an administrative order making compliance with the EITI mandatory. She may not know that since 2012, all members of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines have been complying with this voluntary initiative and that the PH-EITI Secretariat has produced three reports generally showing a reconciliation of mining companies’ tax payments with those received by the government. It was the COMP that recommended this initiative to the government in 2005 as a governance mechanism, which was favorably endorsed by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to the abolished Minerals Development Council.

The resource curse, also known as the paradox of plenty, may have happened in some countries, but not in the Philippines, where mining revenues are still small compared with similarly situated countries. While we have an abundance of natural resources, these have been barely tapped due to an uncertain investment environment, governance problems, and mining critics who drive away investors, like what Lopez is doing.

We expect no less that a respected educator such as Monsod will be writing articles that are logical, well-researched and objective. We are saddened that she has resorted to conjectures and insinuations, perhaps because there is no evidence to support her many allegations.

NELIA C. HALCON,
executive vice president, Chamber of Mines of the Philippines

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TAGS: Carlos Dominguez III, Philippine Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (PH-EITI) National Conference, Prof. Solita Monsod, Resource Curse
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