A big mining lobby, represented by former Supreme Court chief justice Reynato Puno and former associate justice Vicente Mendoza, is asking the High Tribunal’s permission to intervene in two petitions challenging anew the constitutionality of the Mining Act of 1995.
In a motion filed on Wednesday, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) asked the High Tribunal dismiss the petitions filed by former representative Riza Hontiveros of Akbayan party-list in March 2008, which questions the constitutionality of Sections 80 and 81 Republic Act (RA) 7942.
Backed by Puno and Mendoza, COMP said in their submission that the High Tribunal has decided on the constitutionality of the Mining Act, citing the landmark La Bugal-B’laan vs. Ramos case in 2004, a decision penned by former chief justice Artemio Panganiban.
Since the La Bugal ruling, the longest in the history of the High Tribunal which took six years of deliberation, there has been no material change in the circumstances of the Philippine mining industry, COMP added.
“There is no compelling reason for the High Tribunal to abandon its previous ruling,” the chamber added in its motion.
Since 2004, COMP noted that about P173 billion in mining investment have been poured into the country, making the mineral sector a “significant contributor to national development.”
“Those investments include billions of pesos invested in the countryside—a crucial driver of inclusive growth—by COMP members for rural development projects, as all large-scale mining operations are located in remote or hard-to-reach areas of the country,” COMP said.
Potential adverse impact
The mining lobby stressed that an adverse ruling on the petitions will not only undermine mining investments, but will also lead to significant loss of investors’ confidence—not only in the mining industry but broadly across all industries.
They also warned that an adverse ruling may severely impact the country’s investment climate and its credibility.
“To have the Supreme Court revisit its ruling so soon after the [La Bugal] decision became final in 2005 will definitely shake investor confidence and destabilize a critically needed industry,” it added.
“It also challenges not only the stability of the decisions of the Supreme Court, but also the High Tribunal’s institutional integrity,” the chamber further said.
Among the respondents in the Hontiveros-led petitions were the secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI), OceanaGold (Philippines) Inc., TVI Resources and Development Philippines Inc. (TVIRD), and Asiaticus Mining Corp. (Amcor). SMI, OceanaGold, TVIRD and Amcor are all members of COMP, an association of exploration, mining, mineral processing, quarrying, cement, oil and gas, and service industries, as well as professional groups.
According to the group, the two petitions filed by Hontiveros are issues to be decided by the executive and legislative branches of the government, and not the judiciary.
“An adverse ruling by the Supreme Court on the petitions will be seen as once again changing the rules in the middle of the game,” COMP said, stressing that a stable regulatory regime is a necessary foundation upon which to encourage business investment and the growth of industries.
Under RA 7942, COMP said that their members have established viable mining operations, and have existing agreements with the Philippine government that are expected to be honored.
“Our members’ investments under these agreements support job creation, inclusive growth and poverty alleviation, at the same time protect the environment and uphold human rights,” it said.