SolGen green lights legislative franchises for mining firms

Bea Cupin
SolGen green lights legislative franchises for mining firms
A bill that would require congressional franchises for mining firms is part of House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’ list of priority legislation

MANILA, Philippines – The House leadership’s push to eventually require legislative franchises for mining firms is one step closer to reality after the Office of the Solicitor General affirmed Congress’ power to do so.

Solicitor General Jose Calida, in his legal opinion filed before the committees on natural resources and legal franchises, said Congress’ power to grant franchises comes from the State’s police power. (READ: Congressional franchises for casinos, mining ‘reeks of vested interest’)

“Likewise there is also no constitutional prohibition for the authority of Congress to require franchise, only a limitation or requirement as in the citizenship requirement imposed on Public Utility under Article 12, Section 11 of the Constitution,” said Calida, as quoted in a press release from the House of Representatives.

“There is no doubt that franchises are granted by Congress as a form of regulatory framework,” added the government’s top lawyer.

The two House committees are currently discussing House Bills Numbers 5674 and 6259, which would require mining companies to secure legislative franchises before they can operate in the country.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, during the opening of the 17th Congress’ 2nd regular session, included as the lower chamber’s priority legislation a bill that would require operators of casinos, public transportation, and mining companies to get congressional franchises first before being allowed to run their business.

Alvarez is the principal sponsor of HB 6259 or “An Act Amending Certain Portions of RA 7942, otherwise known as the Philippine Miming Act Of 1995, by prohibiting mining In watersheds, requiring a legislative franchise for mining operations and for other purposes.”

Calida said that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)’s current authority to issue mining licenses through the Mines and Geosciences Bureau stems from the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, which HB 6259 seeks to amend.

“The mining industry is imbued with public interest. With more reason then that the Congress may enforce legislative measures to regulate the grant of such privilege to private mining companies,” added Calida.

A technical working group had earlier been formed by the two committees to flesh out and eventually, consolidate the two bills. Three other bills on mineral processing and a ban on the exportation of mineral ores will also be consolidated into the eventual final bill, the House said. – Rappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.