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On eve of 2nd day of SC oral arguments, groups push for alternative mining law

Groups which are seeking to strike down as illegal portions of Republic Act 7942 or the Mining Act of 1995 said on Monday that they merely wanted an alternative law that would not be disadvantageous to the Philippine government. In a press conference in Manila, Erwin Quinones of the SOS-Yamang Bayan, one group opposed to the law, said that they wanted an "Alternative Minerals Management Bill", in which mining activities are "regulated and needs-based." Quinones said the alternative mining law should also pave the way for the creation of a "minerals management council" that would ensure the Philippine Government's interests are protected. "In its present form the so-called revenue regimes of the Mining Act reveals that with its many fiscal incentives and tax holidays, it is a one-way assurance for mining companies get their profits while the Government and the Filipino people bear the brunt of the social and environmental risks," the groups said. Monday's press conference came on the eve of the second day of oral arguments at the Supreme Court on the petitions questioning the mining law. The conference also came on the heels of a petition filed by the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), represented by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno and former Supreme Court Associate Justice Vicente Mendoza, seeking to dismiss the anti-mining law petitions. In their petition for prohibition and mandamus filed in March 2008 which revived issues concerning the law, Akbayan and the other petitioners questioned the constitutionality of Section 80 and 81 of the Mining Law, as well as Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Administrative Order 2007-12 for limiting the government's share in mining activities to duties, fees, and usual taxes, including an excise tax of 2 percent. "Congress, in the case of the Mining Act, failed to put in the necessary standards and conditions. Sec. 80 and 81,were overlooked. The DENR, via its administrative order has given its own interpretation to the point of divesting State interest for real income to the mining corporations," the petitioners said. On the first day oral arguments on the matter in Baguio City last April 16, the petitioners appealed to the 14 magistrates to strike down as unconstitutional Sections 80 and 81 of the law because it created "inequitable distribution" of shares of income derived from mining activities in the country. That time, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio reiterated the position he made nine years ago when he dissented from the 2004 Supreme Court majority ruling that upheld the law's legality. Carpio is the only remaining Supreme Court magistrate among the justices who voted in December 2004 on the constitutionality of the 1995 mining law (La Bugal v Ramos). He was among the four justices who dissented from the majority ruling that the law was constitutional. — DVM, GMA News