IN HIS STATE of the Nation Address Monday this week, our President minced no words in underscoring his policy on mining: be responsible or be taxed to death.
Although he didn’t follow through on how exactly he’d execute this no-nonsense policy, we all know how dead-serious he can be when it comes from exacting the kind of acceptance, or obedience, that he wants.
And we all thought that ex-Secretary Gina Lopez’ non-reappointment as DENR Secretary spelled it all out as far as the President’s mind goes. Mining executives were euphoric that Gina’s tough stance as steward of the country’s environment went out of the window when the powerful vested interests masquerading as responsible environment protectors had their way.
Before the triumphant whistles died down, Gina was out, breaking the heart of true environmentalists who had long decried how mining interests were assaulting the nation’s environmental birthright, how they were stomping on host communities, and how they were short-changing the national coffers.
Now, here’s our President reiterating his unyielding attitude towards what he called as the irresponsible miners who have been messing up our country’s environmental future, to the detriment of national interests. Shape up or ship out, he virtually tells the mining magnates, be responsible or be taxed to death. Truly, a Presidential whiff of fresh air amid the stench of abuse that had been heaped for decades on the nation’s mineral resources, signifying that all is not lost with Gina gone from her DENR perch.
Which brings us now to what exactly can be fostered, taking the cue from our President’s bare-knuckles position relative to irresponsible mining. For starters, mining laws should be revised to provide for higher revenue levels from the mined products to the host nation and the communities where the resources were drawn.
The sharing arrangement of a mere pittance from the mining companies just wouldn’t be just and equitable. Proper compensation must be provided for and sternly abided by the miners, foreign or domestic.
And while we’re at it, why not require the same mining companies to get mineral resources extracted from the bowels of Philippine mountain and the depths of Philippine oceans processed locally into finished products, instead of exporting them for processing and importing these at exorbitant rates? For heaven’s sake, why pay sky-high for what are ours in the first place?
To be sure, there are a host of exciting possibilities that can be explored to bring the level of relationship we have with the mining companies to parity balance. For now, the buck stops at the President’s desk in so far as mining in the country is concerned. And replacement DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu has everything to gain (by way of public approbation) and nothing to lose (that Gina didn’t mind at all in losing). Arent we just glad we’ve got a green President?