Davao Oriental

Davao Oriental protesters slam Marcos Jr. as he seeks changes to mining tax, rules

Ferdinand Zuasola

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Davao Oriental protesters slam Marcos Jr. as he seeks changes to mining tax, rules

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. delivers his second State of the Nation Address at the House of Representatives on July 24, 2023.

Lisa Marie David/Reuters

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. includes the 'rationalization of mining fiscal regime' as among his administration’s proposed essential tax measures during his July 24 State of the Nation Address

DAVAO ORIENTAL, Philippines – A group opposed to large-scale mining expressed their dismay as they staged a protest in Mati City in time for President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 24. 

Marcos has sought to make changes to the tax measures and financial regulations that govern the mining sector. During his SONA, he included the “rationalization of mining fiscal regime” as among his administration’s proposed essential tax measures under the government’s medium-term fiscal framework. 

Marcos also sought Congress’ legislative support for his proposed measure during the SONA.

But leaders and members of the group expressed disappointment as they gathered in Davao Oriental’s capital city to air their grievances centered around what they see as the Marcos Jr. administration’s inaction in addressing the extensive ecological devastation caused by large-scale mining investments in the region.

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“With his strong backing of the mining industry, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is dangerous to the country. He is not even lifting a finger to stop the massive ecological destruction in Mati City being caused by a billion-dollar mining project,” said Primo Solis, chairman of the Barangay Macambol Multi-sectoral Association for Integrated Development.

Solis told Rappler that all their desperate calls for help fell on deaf ears, and they have lost confidence in local officials and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) who were favoring the large-scale mining projects.

One of the most contentious projects is the $2-billion mining venture of Asiaticus Management Corporation (AMCOR) in Mati City. 

AMCOR’s operations cover areas within the Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary and portions of the Pujada Bay Seascape and Landscape.

Meanwhile, in Banaybabay, a town in Davao Oriental, a group of residents appealed to the Marcos Jr. administration to look into the operations of Riverbend Consolidated Mining Corporation and ARC Nickel Resources Incorporation.

They said the mining operations there have already caused substantial ecological damage in the province’s rice granary.

“Please stop the highly destructive large-scale mining projects in our town, Mr. President,” urged farmer Dennis Magallanes during the gathering of anti-mining groups in Mati City. “Look at our rivers; they are all dead. The rivers serve as our sources of irrigation for all the rice farms in our town. Mining is killing our sources of livelihood, and we have no more potable water because of it. We voted for you in the last election. Please help us.”

Last year, the DENR ordered a halt to the operations of the two mining firms due to the damage they caused to the two river systems in Banaybabay. 

The DENR, however, lifted its cease-and-desist orders after the companies showed that they spent more than P100 million to rehabilitate their concession areas, according to the Davao Oriental Provincial Mining Regulatory Board.

The two mining companies hold a mineral production sharing agreement with the government, allowing them to extract nickel laterites from their 6,000-hectare mining concession area.

The situation has raised concerns among anti-mining activists and residents, who continue to demand stronger action from the government to protect their environment and livelihoods from further degradation caused by large-scale mining activities. – Rappler.com

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