3 mining provinces oppose Lopez’s confirmation as DENR chief
SURIGAO CITY – The provincial boards of three mining provinces in Caraga passed resolutions opposing the confirmation of Gina Lopez as secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
In separate resolutions passed this week, the provincial legislative bodies of Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Dinagat expressed apprehension over the potential effects of Lopez’s order to shut down mine operations in their respective areas.
Provincial legislators also criticized Lopez for supposedly failing to conduct adequate consultations with local government units affected by her decisions.
From 2013 to 2015, revenues from excise taxes in the Surigao and Agusan provinces alone totaled P2.1 billion, records from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau show.
Lopez had ordered the closure of at least six mining firms in the two Surigao provinces and seven in Dinagat early this year, following a nationwide mine audit and its findings have been contested by the affected companies.
It would be “presumptuous for any national official to think that she knows, and cares for, what is good for the Province better than anyone, including the Province itself,” read the resolution passed by the Surigao del Norte Provincial Board.
“Any unilateral, arbitrary and imperious imposition of the will of the State without consulting the local governments is anathema to the spirit of autonomy and federalism and is undemocratic,” it added.
According to the resolution, Surigao del Norte stands to lose “at least P40 billion in investments and P8 billion in social development and infrastructure programs for the next 10 years.” Mine closures would also mean the loss of 12,000 jobs, it said.
In Dinagat, a mineral reservation since the 1930s, Provincial Board Member Nilo Demerey said the province would lose P64 million in annual revenues, which has constituted 75 percent of its yearly operating income.
“Dinagat has long been a declared mineral land because of its unique geographical makeup. If you take mining from us, our economy will surely die,” Board Member Demerey told Philippine Daily Inquirer.
A Provincial Board resolution passed by Demerey and his colleagues called on President Rodrigo Duterte to “review Secretary Lopez’s arbitrary actions and illegal orders.”
In Surigao del Sur, Gov. Vicente Pimentel challenged Lopez to hold a plebiscite in the province “to determine whether Surigaonons would like mining operations to continue or not.”
“She (Lopez) disrespected our inherent right to manage our own affairs and our own resources. So it’s better to ask all our constituents whether they like mining or not to put the question to rest, once and for all,” Gov. Pimentel told Inquirer in a phone interview.
Mining towns are set to lose more than half of their local revenues in the wake of Lopez’s orders, according to data from the Department of Finance (DoF).
In Cantilan town, Surigao del Sur, Mayor Philip Pichay said his municipality would lose P20 million in taxes next year if the lone nickel miner in the town were to close down. The tax revenue has represented over 50 percent of the municipality’s annual tax collection, he added.
DoF said Carrascal, Surigao del Sur, would lose P198.3 million, or 62.3 percent of its total operating income; Tagana-an in Surigao del Norte would lose P70.3 million, or 54 percent of its income; and the municipality of Tubajon in the Dinagat Islands would lose P38 million, which represents 55.4 percent of its total operating income.
The opposition from the two Surigao and Dinagat provinces comes on the heels of Tuesday’s confirmation hearing, where Lopez faced the Commission on Appointments (CA) whose members bypassed her appointment twice.
CA members are voting on Wednesday (May 3), whether to reject or approve Lopez’s appointment. A rejection meant that President Duterte must choose a replacement for Lopez. SFM
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