State Responsibility to Mining Sector

Article excerpt

THERE is no question that responsible mining can do much to alleviate mass unemployment and mass poverty in the Philippines, especially in the most remote areas of the country, where most mining reservations are. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the state to ensure that other sectors of the economy do not put up unreasonable and oftentimes illegal obstacles to the rational exploration, development, utilization, and conservation of the country's mineral resources. One glaring example of these obstacles is the issuance by Local Government Units (LGUs) of ordinances that are inconsistent with the Constitution and national laws. Executive Order No. 79 provides for the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to coordinate with the LGUs so as to ensure that the exercise of the latter's powers and functions is consistent with and conform to the regulations, decisions, and policies already promulgated and taken by the National Government relating to the conservation, management, development, and proper utilization of the country's mineral resources. Without denying the need for social acceptance of proposed mining projects and activities, the Executive Order calls the attention of LGU heads about conforming to the provisions of RA No. 7942, which is the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.

Even mayors and governors are not above the law. There have been unfortunate incidents in which LGU heads have illegally defied the provisions of RA No. 7942.

The executive order reminds the LGU heads that they shall confine themselves to the imposition of reasonable limitations on mining activities conducted within their respective territorial jurisdictions that are consistent with national laws and regulations. Of course, LGUs should reasonably expect a fair share of the economic benefits of the mining activities in their respective territories. For this reason, the executive order mandates concerned government agencies, in particular the DENR, the Department of Budget (DBM), and the Department of Finance (DOF), to ensure the timely release of the share of LGUs in the National Wealth pursuant to Section 289 of RA No. 7160, the Local Government Code of 1991. These agencies are likewise directed to study the possibility of increasing LGUs' share as well as granting them direct access to existing arrangements with the Philippine Export Zone Authority (PEZA).

In the past, there have been cases in which national or local government officials have connived with private investors to circumvent certain legal requirements in order to make the proverbial fast buck. The executive order addresses this problem by instituting the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) which has the objective of improving transparency, accountability, and governance in the mining sector. …