The provincial government of Eastern Samar issued an ultimatum to mining companies operating on the southeasternmost tip of the province to implement environmental and social protection measures or risk losing their permits.
In a briefing Tuesday in Quezon City, provincial legal officer Eden Ivy Rose Balagasay said the provincial government is tightening its controls over miners to ensure compliance with environmental laws and the contract they signed with the government under the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA).
“Governor (Ben) Evardone has warned the miners during the special meeting at the Provincial Capitol that he would ask the DENR to revoke their MPSAs in Eastern Samar should he find something amiss in their implementation of environmental and social protection measures in their respective concession areas, as so required under their permits to operate and in compliance with the principles of responsible mining,” Balagasay said.
The provincial office is currently reviewing the documents submitted by the mining companies in the province to assess their level of compliance, she added.
Miners were also encouraged to settle their unpaid real property taxes (RPTs), as soon as possible.
Citing provincial government data, provincial treasurer Antonia Macawile said 5 miners have combined RPT arrears estimated at P133.86 million based on the aggregate volumes listed in their unprocessed chromite and nickel ore stocks transport permits (OTPs) issued by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).
While the provincial government has no regulatory control over the miners under the 1995 Philippine Mining Act, the province warned errant miners it will seek the revocation of their respective MPSA’s from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) if found amiss with their environmental and social protection obligations, and if they fail to settle their long-due tax obligations.
Balagasay said the governor would also want to find out whether the miners had been complying fully with labor laws for the benefit and protection of their workers in their mine sites, including their memberships in, and contributions to, the Social Security System (SSS), Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) and Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-IBIG Fund).
Mining companies operating in the province are Cambayas Mining Corp., Emir Mineral Resources Corp., Techiron Resources Inc., Mt. Sinai Exploration and Development Corp., Chromiteking Incorporated, as well as Nickelace Inc. whose MPSA is being operated by Global Min-met Resources Inc. and Verum Terra Geosciences Inc..
In a recent stakeholders meeting with miners, the local government units specially the mining communities and the DENR, Evardone stressed his support for responsible mining and his bias against miners who breach their MPSAs, national government laws and LGU ordinances.
The Eastern Samar government is pushing the collection of unpaid taxes, along with the RPTs, since the proceeds are supposed to pay for infrastructure improvements such as roads, school buildings and water supply facilities.
Meanwhile, miners reiterated that the industry continues to be one of the most heavily taxed industries in the Philippines, with separate shares that go to local and national coffers.