BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya: Governor Ruth Padilla on Sunday said she is giving a Melbourne-based mining firm until December this year to settle its “long overdue” P91 million tax obligations to the provincial government.
Padilla, who is also Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) chairman, told The Manila Times that she has spoken personally with OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. (OGPI) President Joey Leviste and gave him until December to pay the company’s tax obligations.
“I told him to settle their sand and gravel tax due amounting to more than P91 million, which includes penalties and surcharges incurred since 2012 and that they must pay all other tax obligations to the provincial government until December of this year,” Padilla said.
OceanaGold Philippines Inc. (OGPI) is a local subsidiary of the Melbourne-based OceanaGold Corporation (OGC).
OGPI is tasked through the national government-issued Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) to undertake the multimillion-peso Didipio gold-copper project in the upland village of Didipio, which lies along the mountain border of Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino provinces.
“My heart was bleeding when I saw what you did to our environment, you are taking away our resources and yet you have not paid your long overdue tax obligations to our province,” Padilla told OceanaGold.
Leviste, who was in Nueva Vizcaya to attend the PMRB meeting, was also reportedly trying to negotiate with the provincial leadership to utilize the road networks in Kasibu town for its transport of copper concentrate going to Poro Point in San Fernando City in La Union.
In the meantime, OceanaGold’s group of haulers of copper concentrate uses the Didipio-Cabarroguis (Quirino)-Cordon (Isabela) road going north instead of the Didipio-Kasibu-Bambang (Nueva Vizcaya) road network that goes south and considered shorter in distance to Poro Point.
Padilla also lamented that the Didipio Mine project has “divided the strongly unified indigenous peoples and tribes in the village of Didipio in Kasibu town.”
The project officially commenced commercial operation in the first quarter of 2013 after nearly two decades of exploration activities. It is expected to produce 100,000 ounces of gold and 14,000 tons of copper per year on over an estimated 16-year project life.
Earlier, provincial officials claim that OGPI is doing a “run around by exhausting all legal remedies to escape payment of its tax obligation to the province.”
OGPI officials, however, explained that they have filed an interpleader case for the court to decide to which province will the mining firm should pay its taxes because of a standing boundary dispute between Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino, particularly in the mineral-rich Didipio village.
Vice Governor Lambert Galima has also lamented the foreign mining firm’s move to first seek court ruling before it will pay taxes due to the province.
“I am very much saddened why OGPI chose to seek a court ruling as to where to pay its taxes when in fact the firm has in the first place been talking with officials of Nueva Vizcaya in the early 1990s seeking legal permits as well as social licenses to start its explorations in the province,” Galima said.
He said that OGPI’s tax due was only P28 million when the interpleader case was filed and now it has ballooned to more than P91 million.
“We are bent on collecting the firm’s taxes which is long overdue in order to use it for the welfare and benefit of the people of Nueva Vizcaya, and to wait for the result of the pending case filed is to wait for another decade or so,” Galima said.
“What we are asking OGPI is to withdraw the said case and immediately pay their taxes,” he said.