By: Ben O. de Vera, Ronnel W. Domingo - 12:38 AM February 08, 2017
Foregone local and national tax revenues from communities hosting mines ordered shuttered by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources were estimated to reach P653.6 million a year, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said.
As for DENR Secretary Gina Lopez’s “solution” of generating ecotourism jobs to compensate for job losses due to mine closures, Dominguez said this might not be viable as the country still lacked infrastructure to bolster tourism growth.
At the same time, large-scale nickel mines are carrying on with their operations despite verbal orders from Environment Secretary Gina Lopez that they should shut down their projects even as the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) looks to an interagency body to break the impasse.
The Philippine Nickel Industry Association (PNIA) said its members would continue operating since they have not received any written order for them to shut down.
“How can we act when there is no basis on which to act?” PNIA president Clarence Pimentel Jr. said in an interview.
Pimentel said Lopez’s announcement last week of new results from a mine audit lacked due process, particularly with the environment chief’s refusal to make the results public.
During the induction of the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines’ officers for 2017 Monday night, Dominguez said that while the estimated foregone revenues might not hurt national coffers, these would impact on local government units. “In some municipalities, that’s the only real income they have,” the finance chief pointed out.
A preliminary report of the Department of Finance showed that a total of P441.92 million in local taxes, fees and charges might not be collected from the five mining firms ordered suspended and 23 others ordered closed.
Based on 2015 collections of LGUs hosting mining companies, the five firms to be suspended could pay P272.24 million in taxes, while the 23 to be closed down could contribute P169.68 million. Part of the mining taxes remitted to the national government, meanwhile, could reach P211.72 million.
While Dominguez said he has yet to see the DENR’s report, he clarified that their exchange of views was not a case of “Secretary Lopez against me.”
“It is all of us working together for the benefit of all those people who might experience difficulty. Nobody is challenging her order—at least I am not; we are just saying, ‘what is going on?’” Dominguez said.