MANILA, Philippines—Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Tuesday questioned what the government has been doing to improve its share of profit in the mining industry.
“Is there resolve on the part of the government to get a better share,” Sereno asked during part three of the oral argument on mining.
In grilling the government lawyer Magtanggol Castro, Sereno said looking at the documents submitted to them, they could not find anything where they can be happy with the mining projects.
“We have turned everything around and nothing that says [there is] a potential additional government shares,” Sereno said.
Former Akbayan Representative Risa Hontiveros, in her petition asked the high court to declare as unconstitutional Sections 80 and 81 of Republic Act 7942 or the Mining Act of 1995.
Section 80 states that the total government share in a mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) shall be the excise tax on mineral products while Section 81 specifies the government share in Financial or Technical Assistance Agreements or FTAAs.
The petitioners, aside from Hontiveros, also include Quezon Representative Lorenzo “Erin” Tanada III, Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño and several others said both are unconstitutional because they foster inequitable sharing of wealth.
They said Section 80 for instance limits the share of the government in MPSA to excise taxes while Section 81 confines government shares to taxes, fees and royalties instead of allowing it to have full control over the exploration, development and utilization of mineral resources.
Petitioners, during the oral argument said they want the high court to set a guideline which Congress could use in passing a new law that would amend the Mining Act.
However, mining companies who intervened in the case argued that the high court already declared the law constitutional in its previous ruling and there is no reason to revisit it.
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justice Roberto Abad asked about the equitable share of the government in the mining industry.
Under the law, the government is entitled to two per cent excise tax on metallic and non-metallic minerals.
But Carpio said “when you talk of share of Filipino people the framers of the constitution emphasized that we also want share in the profits.”
He pointed that there are 28 million Filipinos living in poverty “and we should take only two percent and give everything to the investor?”
“Even if these 28 million Filipino who are poor will not get their rightful share, it is okay with you,” Carpio asked.
The high court has yet to conclude its oral argument on the mining issue. The part 4 of the oral argument is scheduled on July 30.