TUBA, Benguet – While Philex Mining Corp. supports President Rodrigo Duterte’s drive against irresponsible mining, it takes exception of the latest move by Environment Secretary Regina Lopez to cancel 75 mining contracts, saying this seemingly disregard of due process resulted in a P6.5-billion loss in the company’s shareholder value in one day.
The company’s president and CEO, Eulalio Austin, Jr., said the “ensuing confusion and uncertainty” brought about by Lopez’s announcement done in a press conference Tuesday has endangered the Silangan project of Philex Mining’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Silangan Mindanao Mining Co., in Surigao del Norte.
“This has eroded investor confidence in the midst of a worrisome regulatory landscape that appears to disregard due process and interprets applicable laws as it wishes,” said Austin, who stressed that unofficial information received Tuesday pointed out that the 75 Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs) are located in watershed areas.
He also said Tuesday it “appears” that Silangan Mining’s MPSA was included in the list, although it has not received any cancellation order or any notice of a cancellation proceeding from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) or any other government agency.
“While the DENR, as regulator, has the right, if not also the duty, to enforce faithfully all mining laws, and to act against erring mining companies, it must do so within the bounds of the Constitutionally-mandated due-process procedure,” Austin stressed.
Four tenements of another Philex Mining subsidiary, Philex Gold Philippines Inc. (PGPI), have also been included in the list for MPSA cancellation, even if all these have been validly issued and, contrary to the assertions in the press conference, are not located in proclaimed watershed forest reserves.
Austin said Philex Mining and its subsidiaries are willing partners of the government in protecting the environment, and in its fight against poverty and unemployment, and in upholding the rule of law and supporting due process.
“Philex continues to support President Duterte in his drive against illegal and irresponsible mining, and rally behind the President in promoting responsible and community-oriented mining,” he added.
Contrary to Lopez’s statements in the press conference, Austin said, none of the areas covered by the Silangan Mining MPSA is located in a proclaimed watershed forest reserve, where mining is not allowed. “Silangan Mining is, therefore, confident that its MPSA is valid and can withstand any legal challenge,” he stressed.
The Silangan project, which is nearing implementation, has an expected investment opportunity of P40 billion in Mindanao, where Duterte declared his fight against hunger, poverty, and underdevelopment. A copper-and-gold project, Silangan is expected to generate P170 billion in revenues, P31 billion in local and national taxes, and at least 8,000 jobs for the first 10 years starting from 2020; and is also seen to spend P6 billion over the same period for social development and infrastructure programs that will benefit Mindanao.
“The project will promote the much-needed development in an area which, in the words of President Duterte, has long been neglected,” Austin said. He added that Silangan Mining secured its MPSA for the project from the national government only after a thorough review process by all relevant government agencies and the endorsement of the host communities and local government units.
He stressed that Philex Mining has a long-standing policy of strictly complying with all applicable laws and regulations, and especially those pertaining to social development and environmental protection and rehabilitation.