Justices raise issue on equitable sharing in mining profit

July 16, 2013 11:25 pm 

By Perfecto T. Raymundo, Jr.

MANILA, July 16 (PNA) — Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. Aranal Sereno 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 Tuesday's oral arguments on the mining issue.

In grilling Assistant Solicitor General 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," she said.

In her petition, former Akbayan party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros asked the SC to declare as unconstitutional Sections 80 and 81 of Republic Act 7942 or the Mining Act of 1995.

Section 80 states the total government share in a mineral production sharing agreement shall be the excise tax on mineral products while Section 81 specifies the government share in Financial or Technical Assistance Agreements.

The other petitioners are Quezon Rep. Lorenzo "Erin" Tanada III, former Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teddy Casino and several others.

They argued both Sections 80 and 81 are unconstitutional because they foster inequitable sharing of wealth.

They claimed 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.

During the oral arguments, the petitioners said they want the SC to set a guideline which Congress could use in passing a new law that would amend the Mining Act.

The mining companies who intervened in the case, however, argued the SC already declared the law constitutional in its previous ruling and there is no reason to revisit it.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio and Associate Justice Roberto A. Abad asked about the equitable share of the government in the mining industry.

Under the law, the government is entitled to two percent excise tax on metallic and non-metallic minerals.

However, 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 stressed 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 Filipinos who are poor will not get their rightful share, it is okay with you," Carpio asked.

The SC has not yet concluded its oral arguments on the mining issue.

The oral arguments will resume on July 30. (PNA)

DSP/PTR

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