South Cotabato

South Cotabato town revokes permit of mining giant

Rommel Rebollido
South Cotabato town revokes permit of mining giant

DEMONSTRATION. Residents of South Cotabato rally against open-pit mining in South Cotabato in May 2022.

Rommel Rebollido/Rappler

Tampakan Mayor Leonard Escobillo issues a September 15 notice to Sagittarius Mines about the revocation of its business permit for alleged violation of the municipal tax code

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – The municipal government of Tampakan in South Cotabato on Thursday, September 15 revoked the business permit of mining firm Sagittarius Mines, Incorporated (SMI) for alleged “fraud and misrepresentation.”

SMI, a company chaired by former defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro, is set to tap Southeast Asia’s largest copper-gold deposit put on hold for decades now due to an open-pit mining ban in South Cotabato where the mine is located.

Tampakan Mayor Leonard Escobillo issued a September 15 notice to SMI about the revocation of its business permit because the firm allegedly violated the town’s 2012 tax code.

Copies of the document were furnished to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), an office under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The revocation of the business permit came at a time when the local Catholic diocese and environmentalists stepped up a campaign to pressure the government not to allow open-pit mining in the province.

Escobillo alleged that SMI falsely stated the description of its business in the company’s application for a business permit.

A revenue collector in the town’s treasury office said they were ordered by the mayor to review all taxes paid by establishments and stumbled upon several deficiencies, including those of SMI.

All the establishments with deficiencies were notified and responded positively, except for SMI. 

Officials said the firm ignored a series of assessment notices sent to them for deficiencies in business tax payments and other regulatory fees.

Escobillo said what SMI stated in the application for a business permit was that it was a “mineral exploration manufacturer,” but an assessment showed it has not been operating as such. 

Instead, he said, “SMI is operating as a general engineering contractor.”

Part of the revocation notice to SMI read that “the company’s declared amount indicated in your gross receipts come from the sale of your unserviceable assets, such as tables, computers, and equipment, etc. that can be considered as other income but not due to the company’s mining operations/activity.”

The revocation came days after SMI hauled to court the town government in protest of the local government’s attempt to collect from the firm close to P400 million in taxes and regulatory fees since 2013.

Escobillo said the town’s treasury office found deficiencies in the company’s business tax from 2020 to 2022 as well as in their business permit fees and other regulatory fees from 2013 to 2022.

He said the company was aware of the tax laws, but SMI opted to bring the matter to court.

“We will face them and we are prepared,” Escobillo said.

Tampakan hosts the multibillion-dollar copper-gold project in the area which is touted to have one of the world’s largest mineral deposits.

SMI’s petition for review includes a prayer for a temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop the Tampakan town government from collecting the amount from the company.

SMI and its officials have not made any statement on the move of Escobillo as of this posting. This story will be updated once they issue an official statement. – Rappler.com

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