Filtered By: News

Akbayan, Bayan Muna set aside differences to fight mining law

BAGUIO CITY — Warring party-list and political groups set aside their differences on Tuesday to ask Supreme Court magistrates holding summer session here to strike down Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 as unconstitutional. Members of rival party-list groups Bayan Muna and Akbayan marched to the Supreme Court building in Baguio hours before the oral arguments on the legality of the mining law. Bayan Muna's Teddy Casiño and Akbayan's Risa Baraquel-Hontiveros, both senatorial candidates in next month's midterm elections, were among those who filed petitions for prohibition and mandamus in March 2008, contesting Sections 80 and Section 81 of the law. Another petitioner is House Deputy Speaker and Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III of the ruling Liberal Party, the political party of President Benigno Aquino III. "[Among the petitioners are] three parties which disagree on many things but agree to unite here," Casiño said, referring to his party-list group, Akbayan, and LP. "This issue transcends the politics that we have for a greater concern... Even within the ruling party may kakampi po tayo," he added. Though her group is aligned with the leftist movement, Hontiveros has since allied with the LP and is running under Aquino's ticket for her senatorial bid. She is up against Casiño, who is running as an independent. Bayan Muna and Akbayan recently had a falling out when allies of the former accused the latter of no longer belonging to the marginalized sector after it allied with the ruling LP. However, their long history of rivalry can be traced to the division of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its allies in the 1990s.  Akbayan was formed by those who refused to be associated with both factions. Unjust and fair At a press conference before marching to the high court, Casiño urged the Supreme Court to "flip flop" on the mining law and strike it down as unconstitutional for allegedly providing "unjust and unfair sharing of proceeds from mining activities." "Tutal naka-flip flop na naman ang Supreme Court sa maraming pagkakataon, we now appeal to the SC to flip flop again for the people," said Casiño. According to Department of Environment and Natural Resources Administration Order 2007-12, which was issued to interpret the Mining Law, the share of the government would be limited to usual taxes, duties, and fees. Casiño said the government gets a 2-percent "royalty" from mining activities. "But on top of taxes fees, we also want to include 10 percent royalty for the national government and 10 percent for indigenous communitties," he said. Casiño said these "legal issues" still hamper the expansion of the royalty from 2 percent to 5 percent, noting proposals to further increase the royalty to 7 percent. "But still we think that is small... the law should be replaced with a more patriotaic pro people and pro environment policy," he said. SC urged to "flip flop" The SC had repeatedly been accused of flip-flopping on supposed final and other high-profile decisions. It had earlier reversed itself on the cityhood of 16 towns that were declared cities despite opposition from the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP). The SC also went under fire for recalling an earlier ruling ordering the Philippine Airlines to reinstate 1,400 retrenched flight attendants who went on strike in 1998 and pay them back wages and benefits worth millions. On April 12, 2011, the high court also took back a February 2010 ruling and decided to uphold the legality of the provincehood of the Dinagat Islands. Petitioners Casiño expressed fears that unless the current Mining Law is struck down, the Philippines could suffer the fate of African nations whose resources were drained by foreign firms but the benefits didn't trickle down to their citizens. Environmental groups threw their support behind Casiño. Carmen Ananayo of Didipio Earth-Savers Multi-Purpose Association Inc (Desama) in Nueva Vizcaya said, "Maraming nagrereklamo sa equipment ng mining company sa amin, kasi 24 hours sila nagtatrabaho. Maalikabok ang komunidad dahil sa equipment at pinapapaputok na dinamita." She also claimed that locals have died and that a nearby dam have been polluted because of mining operations in their area. Santos Mero of the Cordillera People's Alliance, on the other hand, said the mining law should be replaced with a new one. "Kailangan i-certify as urgent ang nakabinbing bills to replace mining law. Kailangan i-reorient itong ating mining industries." — KBK, GMA News