Former President and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, in a hearing on Thursday, pushed to once and for all define open-pit mining and ban it.

“When the President says, ‘I don’t want open-pit mining,’ once and for all, we must define it in a law so that we get out of the layman’s meaning and go to a technical meaning,” the Spaaker said.

The Speaker stressed this during the technical working group (TWG) meeting of the Committee on Ways and Means, chaired by Rep. Estrellita Suansing (1st District, Nueva Ecija), which is working on the matrix for House Bills 422 and 7994, both seeking to establish the fiscal regime for the country’s mining industry. This is in preparation for the crafting of a substitute bill for the two measures.

Speaker Arroyo said she would like to incorporate a second part to the substitute bill that would define open-pit mining as a violation of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Administrative Order (DAO) 2018-2019.

“So I have proposed a provision that says open-pit mining, as defined here in this Act, is prohibited. And anyone who will not comply with the DAO shall take steps to comply with the DAO within a period allowed by the DENR. And within that period, they must pay an excise tax of such and such an amount,” she said.

The Speaker also bared that Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III previously stated that, “[the mining bill] is not my priority. That is GMA’s priority.”

The Speaker then recounted her conversation with Filminera Resources Corporation Director Gloria Tan Climaco, wherein the Speaker underscored the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) message that the mining tax shall be prioritized following the approval of Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law’s Package 2.

“In the meantime, I have this instruction to the House (based) from the President’s SONA. And I’ve said when I became Speaker [that] my job is to carry out his legislative agenda. So I suggest that the industries submit the paper to him, since he has not yet sent a communication that says, notwithstanding the President’s statement, that is not his agenda,” Speaker Arroyo said.

“That is what I am asking for. But we are not going to wait forever. Send it today, and if we do not hear from him in three days, then we will write our own committee report,” Speaker Arroyo further said.

If Dominguez does not respond within three days, the Speaker said she will request Suansing to form a technical working group that shall work on the substitute bill.

House Members expect the DOF to respond on or before September 25, 2018.

The revisions on the substitute bill shall only be in accordance with the two provisions proposed by the Speaker : (1) revenue raising; and (2) open-pit mining.

“Well, my main concern (is), anything with plus P1 revenue is acceptable, because we are raising revenues,” she said.

Speaker Arroyo also said that the DENR has already submitted a proposal to the DOF to include royalty fees on mining firms operating outside mineral reservations, which is not allowed under the current policy.

In his third SONA last July, President Duterte warned anew the mining industry not to destroy the environment or compromise the country’s resources. He asked mining firms to repair what they have damaged.

“Do not just give me taxes. I can get it from other sources. Give me what needs to be given to my country,” the President said.

Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (CoMP) Chairman Gerardo Brimo said the mining sector has crafted a counter-proposal which shall be submitted to the Committee within the day.

Also present in the hearing were Deputy Speakers Raneo Abu and Sharon Garin, Reps. Angelina Tan (4th District, Quezon), Marisol Panotes (2nd District, Camarines Sur) and Milagros Aquino-Magsaysay (Party-list, Senior Citizen), as well as resource persons from the mining sector and the DOF, among others. Monel Gonzales

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