Small miners sue Paje to stop fee hike
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet—A group of small-scale miners has asked a court here to stop Environment Secretary Ramon Paje from enforcing the new implementing rules for the People’s Mining Act that they claim impose exorbitant fees and a provision that restricts them to operate for only six years.
The complaint, filed on July 27 by Benguet Federation of Small-scale Miners Inc. (BFSSMI), said the new impositions of Administrative Order No. 2015-03 “tends not to regulate the trade of small-scale miners but hamper or prohibit it.”
AO 2015-03 states the revised implementing rules and regulations (RIRR) of Republic Act
No. 7076 (People’s Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991), which were drawn up to abide by President Aquino’s policy on mining (Executive Order No. 79). Paje issued the order on March 16.
The rules display “a clear encroachment on the legislative powers which belongs to Congress,” BFSSMI said. “The application fee prescribed in the RIRR setting the amounts of P10,000 for nonmetallic minerals … and P20,000 for gold, silver and/or chromite is … excessive and unreasonable.”
Section 16 of the RIRR also imposes a P50,000 processor’s fee when they use a custom mill mandated by the government for the Minahang Bayan (people’s small-scale mining area), said Lomino Kaniteng, the federation president.
Kaniteng described as “capricious” and “arbitrary” the increase of the P20 fee provided by Section 18 of the law.
“Apparently, this guideline was adopted to discourage small-scale miners from plying their trade…. This provision of the RIRR has become a burden, a manacle and a threat to the welfare and livelihood of the hapless small-scale miners,” the complaint said.
It said the new requirements were “tailored-fit” to large-scale mining operations.
The group questioned Section 21 of the RIRR changing the composition of the mining regulatory boards in the provinces or cities by including a representative from the area’s large-scale mine.
“The inclusion of a representative from the large-scale mines to the [mining regulatory boards] would be ironic … in the sense that what is regulated are the affairs of [pocket miners],” BFSSMI said.
Section 13 allows pocket miners to avail themselves of two-year contracts which can be renewed only twice, because each licensed miner is allowed only a maximum of six years to operate in a Minahang Bayan.
The group said the RIRR presented a “clear and present danger” for small-scale miners who may be arrested and deprived of their livelihood should they fail to fulfill the strict requirements or pay the fees imposed by the government.
Kaniteng said the group had cooperated with the government and had been fulfilling all its requests to ensure that the pocket mining industry is legitimized. But the RIRR have made their job even more difficult, he said.
The government had also failed to designate Minahang Bayan as required by EO 79, Kaniteng said. With a report from Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.