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REVIEW TEAM ADVISED MINE SUSPENSION, NOT CLOSURES - SOURCES
[RELATED: Civil society groups back Lopez vs erring mining firms]


FEBRUARY 5 -A worker inspects the copper and zinc processing plant of inside the Rapu Rapu mine owned by the Australian firm Lafayette mining in Albay in this February 5, 2007 file photo. Romeo Ranoco, Reuters
 A team that reviewed an audit of Philippine mines recommended suspension of operations and payment of fines for environmental violations, rather than the closure of 23 mines ordered by the minister overseeing the process, two people with knowledge of the matter said. Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez on Thursday ordered the mines shut, saying many were operating in watersheds. The mines to be closed account for half of nickel ore output by the world's top supplier of the metal. Another five mines were suspended. The decision has angered the country's mining industry, with miners saying the shutdowns will affect 1.2 million people and some vowing to overturn the ruling. However, the review team that advised on the process believed some of the violations, which included insufficient rehabilitation of mined areas, absence of tree-cutting permits and construction of alternate haul roads, were rectifiable, and did not warrant permanent closure, one of the people said. "She's the boss, she has all the discretion," the person said. "The only question is what was her basis in her decision?" Surigao del Norte First District Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. said the closure of mines did not undergo due process since the results of the audit are yet to be finalized. "Maliwanag po na walang due process. In fact, hindi pa po tapos yung resulta ng audit. This is a major audit," he said. READ MORE...RELATED,
Civil society groups back Lopez vs erring mining firms...

ALSO: Mining closures, suspensions to cost LGUs over P650M
[RELATED: Palace assures miners of due process]


FEBRUARY 8 -Finance chief Carlos Dominguez said that affected LGUs stood to lose more than P650 million in mining revenues and fees. File Photo The Department of Finance estimates that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources order to close or suspend the operations of 28 mines across the country will cost affected local government units over P650 million annually. Based on an initial report by the Bureau of Local Government Finance, the DOF said that losses in taxes, fees and other charges collected by the LGUs from mining companies are estimated at P441.92 million. Meanwhile, the losses of LGUs arising from their share in mining taxes collected by the national government are pegged at P211.72 million. "The total estimated potential revenue loss of the affected LGUs from all sources, based on 2015 data, amounts to P653.64 million," the executive director of the BLGF, Nino Alvina, said. READ MORE...RELATED, Palace assures miners of due process...

ALSO: Palace, Cabinet put on hold mine closures & suspension orders
[RELATED: Multi-stakeholder review of mining firms ordered]


FEBRUARY 10 -DENR Secretary Gina Lopez meets thepress at Malacañang yesterday. KRIZJOHN ROSALES
Malacañang has put on hold the closure and suspension orders on 28 mines issued by Environment Secretary Gina Lopez purportedly to give way to due process. Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said on Wednesday that President Duterte and his Cabinet have collectively decided to observe due process in dealing with the mining issue. Abella said mining firms would be given the opportunity to respond to or dispute the results of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)’s mining audit, which has not yet been released by the agency. The DENR based its decision to close 23 mines and suspend five others on the audit report. READ MORE...RELATED, Multi-stakeholder review of mining firms ordered...

ALSO: Economists - Tuition-free State Universities Colleges (SUC) education ‘anti-poor’
[Duterte economic team opposes free SUC tuition, favors alternative]

FEBRUARY 8 -A group of prominent economists and socio-political thinkers vehemently opposed proposals to mandate state universities and colleges (SUCs) to offer tuition-free education, arguing that while “well-intended,” such a policy would be “anti-poor.” In a press statement issued on Tuesday, advocacy group Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) instead pushed for the implementation of an existing law that unifies and rationalizes all modalities for student financial assistance, including scholarships, grants-in-aid and student loans. FEF said the proposal to increase funding for free tuition to SUCs would benefit higher-income students and provide unfair competition to private institutions which are more efficient in providing higher education. READ MORE...RELATED, Duterte economic team opposes free SUC tuition, favors alternative...

ALSO: By Babe Romualdez - Trump controversies continue
[RELATED: Filipina speaker in 4th Fortune Most Powerful Women Int’l Summit]


FEBRUARY 9 He’s only been in office for three weeks, but US president Donald Trump is driving controversies from left, right, front and center.
His executive order banning immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries has sparked global condemnation with thousands continuing to protest across cities in the US (and even in Auckland, New Zealand) and leaders describing the order as racist. And now, the ban seems to be pitting the executive against the judiciary after a US District Court judge in Seattle imposed a nationwide temporary restraining order against Trump’s ban, opining that it is unconstitutional. Justice Department lawyers insist the US President has the authority to ban the entry of “any class of aliens” as long as there is rational basis that they pose a threat to national security. Trump has also launched a Twitter offensive, berating the “so-called judge” for issuing a “ridiculous” decision – which might not work in his favor since the appeals court is deliberating on the future of the executive order. As everyone knows, judges tend to be collegial and any attack on one may be deemed an attack on the rest of them. Trump is definitely not Mr. Popular, and his critics and foes are also having a heyday attacking him. READ MORE...RELATED, Filipina speaker in 4th Fortune Most Powerful Women Int’l Summit...

ALSO: Meralco expects big rate hike
[ALSO: REVENUE LEAKS - BOC steps up probe of oil, cigarette smuggling]


FEBRUARY 9 -Power consumers can expect a “significant increase” in generation charges this month from an all-time low in January, because of the maintenance shutdown of several plants and higher fuel costs, Manila Electric Co. said Wednesday.
“Coming from a record low in January, we expect a significant increase in the generation charge due to normalization of capacity fees for Pagbilao and Ilijan [power plants], lower dispatch of plants that went on maintenance [Calaca, Masinloc and First Gas-Sta. Rita] and higher fuel costs,” Meralco senior vice president and head of utility economics Lawrence Fernandez said. Fernandez did not give specific details on the impending increase. Meralco will release the final figures Friday. “We also anticipate higher transmission charges, with the recent approval of the higher MAR [maximum allowable revenue] for NGCP [National Grid Corp. of the Philippines],” he said. READ MORE...ALSO, REVENUE LEAKS: BOC steps up probe of oil, cigarette smuggling...


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Review team advised mine suspensions, not closures - sources


A worker inspects the copper and zinc processing plant of inside the Rapu Rapu mine owned by the Australian firm Lafayette mining in Albay in this February 5, 2007 file photo. Romeo Ranoco, Reuters

MANILA, FEBRUARY 13, 2017 (ABS-CBN) Manolo Serapio Jr., Reuters Posted at Feb 05 2017 07:13 PM -- A team that reviewed an audit of Philippine mines recommended suspension of operations and payment of fines for environmental violations, rather than the closure of 23 mines ordered by the minister overseeing the process, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez on Thursday ordered the mines shut, saying many were operating in watersheds. The mines to be closed account for half of nickel ore output by the world's top supplier of the metal. Another five mines were suspended.

The decision has angered the country's mining industry, with miners saying the shutdowns will affect 1.2 million people and some vowing to overturn the ruling.

However, the review team that advised on the process believed some of the violations, which included insufficient rehabilitation of mined areas, absence of tree-cutting permits and construction of alternate haul roads, were rectifiable, and did not warrant permanent closure, one of the people said.

"She's the boss, she has all the discretion," the person said. "The only question is what was her basis in her decision?"

Surigao del Norte First District Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. said the closure of mines did not undergo due process since the results of the audit are yet to be finalized.
"Maliwanag po na walang due process. In fact, hindi pa po tapos yung resulta ng audit. This is a major audit," he said.

READ MORE...

Lopez, however, insisted that the closure went through due process and that they issued a show-cause order to the involved mines.

"We investigated, we did the audit. And at the end of the audit, nagbigay kami ng show-cause so that's the process. We didn't ban them right away we said, 'explain why we should't suspend you' and they replied and we studied the reply," she said in an interview on dzMM.

Lopez, a long-time environmentalist who took over the department that oversees the mining sector last June when tough-talking President Rodrigo Duterte came to power, has declined to release the recommendations of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) review team.

"What's important here is the decision I make as cabinet secretary, not the recommendations ... Don't try to make things complicated," she told reporters on Thursday.
"You cannot have any kind of mining operations in a watershed. Water is life."

No slowing down: Duterte fully backs Gina Lopez


LOPEZ

BANNED FROM BRIEFING

Damage to watersheds and siltation of coastal waters where the mines are located were the major reasons that led to Lopez's decision to shut them, said a second person with knowledge of the matter.

"The secretary herself went to the mining sites and she personally reviewed the documents and that led to the decision," the person said.

Lopez launched the environmental audit of the mines in July, initially suspending 10 and saying 20 more were at risk of being halted. The bureau's review team began examining the audit results and the responses from miners in December, one of the sources said.

Members of the review team were banned from Thursday's briefing, according to a mining industry group and one of the sources.

Not allowing the MGB personnel to attend the press conference "leaves a lot of doubt in the fairness of the entire process," Artemio Disini, chairman of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, said in a letter to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez on Friday.

Dominguez has expressed concern over the looming job losses.

"There has to be due process," said Vicente Lao, owner of chromite producer Mt. Sinai Mining Exploration and Development Corp, which was ordered to close.

Australian miner OceanaGold Corp., which was ordered suspended, said it "will not rule out commencing proceedings to appeal to a higher authority, and seek to stay and overturn the order" once it receives it.

GREEN ECONOMY

Lopez, meanwhile, challenged mining companies, which she ordered suspended or closed, to give her at least 18 months to develop areas they previously occupied into ecological zones that "can create more jobs."

“Give me a year and a half, maximum two years. They’ve been there for 77 years . . . A green economy can create more jobs than the mining could ever (create),” she said, referring to mines in Dinagat Islands, in an interview on dzMM on Saturday.

She said she has learned of 185 possible ecotourism areas in Dinagat Islands, which could be developed in place of mines and create enterprises for locals.

Consultations and planning will be conducted with affected mining employees from February 16-18 to discuss alternative jobs, Lopez has announced, adding that the DENR will announce more "policies" on February 14 but did not specify. -- With reports from Primy Cane, ABS-CBN News

RELATED STORY: Mining shares fall after Lopez orders suspensions

-------------------------------------

RELATED FROOM ABS-CBN

Civil society groups back Lopez vs erring mining firms ABS-CBN News Posted at Feb 06 2017 05:27 PM


Environment Secretary Gina Lopez

Various civil society groups expressed support for the government's suspension and closure of several mining operations.

Non-government organizations (NGOs) and groups including Aksyon Klima lauded the move by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez to suspend or shut down erring mining firms.

"We welcome her campaign against illegal logging, illegal mining, and other destructive practices that aggravate the devastation of our natural resources," they said in a statement.

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines has criticized Lopez over her order to close 23 mines and suspend the operations of 5 others.

The industry group called Lopez's order "illegal and unfair," and vowed to challenge it in court.

READ: Mining industry says mine closures 'illegal, unfair'

Civil society groups, however, lauded Lopez.

"We have long awaited the type of bold leadership currently being displayed by Secretary Lopez in the DENR," their statement read.

"The interests of impoverished communities and environmental sustainability have, for far too long, lost out to powerful global mining players," it added.

Lopez, meanwhile, has downplayed the mining industry's warning that the shutdown of several mining operations would affect 1.2 million people.

She said 'green industries' like ecotourism can create more jobs.

READ: Green industries better at creating jobs than mining: DENR's Gina Lopez


PHILSTAR

Mining closures, suspensions to cost LGUs over P650M By Audrey Morallo (philstar.com) | Updated February 8, 2017 - 4:11pm 1 4 googleplus0 0


Finance chief Carlos Dominguez said that affected LGUs stood to lose more than P650 million in mining revenues and fees. File Photo

MANILA, Philippines— The Department of Finance estimates that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources order to close or suspend the operations of 28 mines across the country will cost affected local government units over P650 million annually.

Based on an initial report by the Bureau of Local Government Finance, the DOF said that losses in taxes, fees and other charges collected by the LGUs from mining companies are estimated at P441.92 million.

Meanwhile, the losses of LGUs arising from their share in mining taxes collected by the national government are pegged at P211.72 million.

"The total estimated potential revenue loss of the affected LGUs from all sources, based on 2015 data, amounts to P653.64 million," the executive director of the BLGF, Nino Alvina, said.

READ MORE...

According to the BLGF, 10 provinces would be affected by the closures and suspensions, and these are: Benguet, Nueva Vizcaya, Palawan, Cebu, Bulacan, Zambales, Eastern Samar, Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte and Surigao de Sur.

BGLF based its estimates on 2015 data because reports for 2016 are not due until March 31.

BLGF sourced its data from initial estiamtes by LGU treasurers and their electronic Statements of Receipts and Expenditures (SREs) that now includes data on earnings from mining and other extractive activities.

According to Alvina, LGUs collect the following taxes and fees from mining firms in their jurisdictions: real property tax (RPT), local business tax, mayor's permit fee, regulative and administrative fees and occupation fees.

In addition, affected component municipalities collect governor's clearance, verification fee, environmental fees, soil depletion tax and processing permits for vessel, Alvina said.

According to the BLGF, the order of the DENR would cost concerned LGUs P43.97 million in RPTs while losses in business taxes and other fees are estimated at P358.56 and provincial revenues at P39.9 million.

Alvina said that for RPTs collected by cities, the LGU gets a 70 percent share while the remaining money is share by the barangays. Fifty percent of the share of barangays goes to the directly affected village while the remaining half is equally shared by component barangays.

In the case of RPTs collected by provinces, according to Alvina, the province gets a 35 percent share while 40 percent is remitted to the municipality and the remaining 25 percent is given to the barangay(s) where the mining site is operated.

Regarding their share in mining taxes collected by the national government, Alvina said that preliminary data showed that affected LGUs stood to lose P211 million or 43 percent of their total share from national government tax collections.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III recently ordered local treasurers of affected LGUs to assess the impact of the mine closures and suspensions on their finances.

Dominguez said that aside from the massive job losses and its effect on the national economy the order of the DENR might imperil the fiscal state of concerned LGUs because a hefty amount of tax revenues of these LGUs comes from mining firms.

The assessment of the local treasurers should help the government in crafting a comprehensive strategy to address the impact of the DENR order on the employment and fiscal health of affected communities.

------------------------------------

RELATED FROM THE INQUIRER

Palace assures miners of due process By: Marlon Ramos, Ronnel W. Domingo - @inquirerdotnetPhilippine Daily Inquirer / 12:40 AM February 09, 2017

President Duterte and members of his Cabinet assured mining firms that they would be afforded due process in the mining audit being conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

“This means companies affected by mining closures for violations of environmental laws and regulations will be given the opportunity to respond or dispute the audit, or make the necessary remedies to ensure compliance with government standards,” presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.

He said the issue over the decision of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez to shut down mining firms over violations of environment laws was discussed during the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

The Palace official said Department of Finance officials would be meeting with their counterparts in the DENR as members of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC).

Wednesday, Lopez said she would sign and release within the day orders for the suspension of 23 mines and closure of five others after the affected companies said they received neither any notice nor results of the mine audit.

“When the press conference was done (last Feb. 2), the evaluations have been completed days before,” Lopez said in a statement. “What happened was an omnibus directive. It was prepared for all mining companies (but) our lawyers have decided it should be issued to individual mining companies. That’s why there’s been a delay.”

Lopez insisted that the mine audit was “fair and within the law,” claiming that she did it “to protect the present and future generations as enshrined in the mining law and the Philippine constitution.”

Large-scale miners through the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines have engaged the inter-agency MICC to review and “hopefully reverse” Lopez’s actions.

Output from metallic mines had dropped in value by 8 percent to P100.6 billion in 2016 from P109.8 billion in 2015 partly due to similar announcements on the suspension of mines made last year, according to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).

Gold production maintained the biggest share with P44.8 billion or 44 percent of total metal output in 2016. This meant an increase of 31 percent by value. Copper represented P17.8 billion in output value (a decrease of 6 percent) while the rest — silver, chromite and iron ore — rang up about P1 billion.

Nickel accounted for P36.8 billion or 37 percent. The value of nickel ore directly shipped out and of nickel sulfides fell by 41 percent to P21.8 billion and 21 percent to P15 billion, respectively. In terms of volume, production of nickel ores plunged by 23 percent to 24.7 million dry metric tons (DMT).

The MGB had noted that in a worst-case scenario where operating mines recommended for suspension are finally suspended, the immediate impact on the economy in terms of investment, employment and production would be as follows:

• about a quarter or $1.69 billion of the expected additional investments on the country’s operating mines—pegged at $4.45 billion—may not proceed.

• 19,674 people or 43 percent of the mining industry’s current workforce stand to lose their jobs. Add to these the indirect jobs that mining creates, with at least four additional jobs in related industries on top of every direct employment.

• gold output may be slashed by 45 percent while production of nickel and copper may be cut by 67 percent and 26 percent, respectively.


PHILSTAR

Palace, Cabinet put on hold mine closures & suspension orders By Mary Grace Padin and Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 10, 2017 - 12:00am 0 5 googleplus0 0


DENR Secretary Gina Lopez meets thepress at Malacañang yesterday. KRIZJOHN ROSALES

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang has put on hold the closure and suspension orders on 28 mines issued by Environment Secretary Gina Lopez purportedly to give way to due process.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said on Wednesday that President Duterte and his Cabinet have collectively decided to observe due process in dealing with the mining issue.

Abella said mining firms would be given the opportunity to respond to or dispute the results of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)’s mining audit, which has not yet been released by the agency.

The DENR based its decision to close 23 mines and suspend five others on the audit report.

READ MORE...

“The Department of Finance (DOF) shall have further discussions with the DENR in their capacities as concerned government agencies of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC),” the President’s spokesman said.

Lopez and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III co-chair the MICC.

“Members of the Cabinet have expressed their full support behind President Duterte’s decision to observe due process before implementing a directive of the DENR to shut down or suspend 28 mining sites across the country,” the DOF said in a statement.

Lopez’s closure order has sparked uproar in communities hosting mining sites, as some 1.2 million people are estimated to be directly and indirectly affected by the closure and suspension orders.

Affected mining firms have also asked the DENR to give them more time to take the necessary remedial actions.

Industry group Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) welcomed the Palace’s latest announcement.

“The Chamber of Mines thanks President Duterte and the Cabinet for deciding to observe due process with regard to the mining issue,” the group said in a statement.

“We welcome the decision as this gives hope to our mining communities comprised of women and men who rely on the industry for their living,” it added.

The group promised to cooperate with the government and the MICC in reaching a “fair and just” arrangement.

It also reminded the DENR that it has not yet released the audit report used by the department to justify its orders.

“Firms have not received any. That’s why we’re still at a loss,” COMP executive vice president Nelia Halcon said over the phone.

“We are not just requesting for the mere summation of the audit results. We need the actual test results which were used as bases for determining whether or not these mining firms have violated environmental regulations,” COMP chairman Artemio Disini said.

“The DENR needs to show us that these tests were conducted in each mining company and the specific findings that merited their suspension or closure,” he added.

Several Cabinet members earlier expressed concern over the impact of the DENR decision on employment and on finances of local government units.

In response, Lopez said the government would allot P8 billion for the development of sites in ecological zones where displaced workers would be hired.

House probe For two members of the House of Representatives, an investigation should be launched to find out how Lopez came up with her decision.

Reps. Allen Jesse Mangaoang of Kalinga and Anthony Bravo of party-list Coop-Natcco filed House Resolution 756 calling for a House inquiry into the DENR chief’s basis for issuing the suspension and closure orders.

Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers – in whose area several mining firms were operating – earlier warned Lopez to watch her back and be wary of her alleged double agent confidant, former Mines and Geosciences Bureau chief Leo Jasareno.

Closing mining companies responsible for destroying Mother Earth is definitely commendable, but the DENR chief should also check her own trusted aide who for decades allowed unimpeded and unabated mining activities, he said.

Barbers issued the warning following Lopez’s decision to tap the expertise of former DENR undersecretary Jasareno, whom President Duterte had already “dismissed.”

“Jasareno is not an innocent bystander in this masquerade. He is the protagonist. His MGB was supposed to police the mining activities in the country, but now he is saying that these companies committed environmental violations,” Barbers pointed out the irony.

Lopez, a pro-environment advocate, hired the former MGB chief and even designated him to lead the audit team that supposedly recommended the closure of the 23 mines.

Barbers, chairman of the House dangerous drugs committee, noted it is very “disturbing” to learn that Jasareno was hired by no less than Lopez herself and “equally disturbing” was her appointment of him as head of the audit team to probe the mining firms.

“Such hypocrisy coming from the one who was supposed to make sure that mining laws are followed and implemented,” Barbers noted, as he urged Lopez to be “fair and investigate her confidante with the same zeal and vigor” as she had displayed in her dealing with mining firms.

“Jasareno knew all too well that the violations were happening under his watch – for several years – but he deliberately turned a blind eye on these violations,” the Mindanao lawmaker stressed.

“Gross negligence at the very least, gross incompetence at worse and connivance at worst, which one is it, Mr. Jasareno? And how about those mining companies which were not closed and whose owners are known friends of Mr. Jasareno?” Barbers asked.

He lamented that Lopez has “put the blame entirely on the erring mining companies without looking at the root cause of the problem, which did not just happen overnight.”

He urged Lopez to “open her eyes if she really wants to reform the graft-laden agency.”

“I urge Secretary Lopez to turn her attention to the contributing factor for these environmental violations. I am referring to the corrupt MGB under Jasareno, the Malacañang-dismissed DENR undersecretary,” Barbers said in a statement.

“It is very sad and unfortunate for the country that despite being dismissed by no less than the President, Secretary Lopez still retained Jasareno as her confidante and consultant,” he added.

Meanwhile, environmentalist group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) has assailed Malacañang for withdrawing Lopez’s order. – With Artemio Dumlao, Louise Maureen Simeon

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RELATED FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

Multi-stakeholder review of mining firms ordered 6 SHARES Share it! Published February 11, 2017, 12:05 AM By Chino S. Leyco

“The (council) is recommendatory to me. They’re not my boss,” Lopez said. “Nobody can tell me what to do except the president.”


Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez (left) listens as Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez speaks during a meeting of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council on February 9, 2017. Dominguez and Lopez are co-chairman of the council. (Reuters photo)

A multi-stakeholder review on mining companies was decided late Thursday after a five-hour closed-door meeting of the inter-agency Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC)

The MICC, which is co-chaired by Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III and Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez, has advised the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to review first the performance of mining firms in the country.

Based on a resolution signed by Dominguez and Lopez, a multi-stakeholder review could center mainly on the 28 mining firms ordered by the DENR for either closure or suspension.

“Pursuant to [Executive Order] No. 79, the MICC shall create a multi-stakeholder review and advise the DENR on the performance of existing mining operations in consultation with local government units (LGUs),” the resolution read.

“The review shall be based on the guidelines and parameters set forth in the specific mining contract and in other pertinent laws, taking into account the valid exercise of the State’s police power to serve the common good, especially of the poor,” it added.

According to Dominguez, the multi-stakeholder review aims to provide assistance and guidance to the DENR, while ensuring that all mining stakeholders will be given due process before any decision is made.

“Essentially, the council will assist DENR. There are considerations to be taken and the government has to prepare for the fallout on those decisions,” Dominguez told reporters after the MICC meeting held at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

“We just want to assure everybody, including local government units that may be affected, that there will be a process of listening to them in this whole process,” he added.

The review council will be composed of a sizeable group from the MICC membership, consisting of the government’s economic cluster and the climate change cluster, the finance chief said.

“There will be a technical working group that will be identified,” Dominguez added.

LOPEZ WELCOMES REVIEW BUT...

Lopez, meanwhile, said that she welcomes the multi-stakeholder review, while insisting that all mining operations in watersheds should be scrapped.

The Philippines’ environment minister vowed not to buckle to mounting pressure from a mining sector reeling from her shutting more than half of the country’s mines on environmental protection grounds.

Last week, Lopez has ordered the closure of 23 of the country’s 41 mines, most of which produce nickel ore, and the suspension of five more due to violations uncovered during a lengthy environmental audit.

Mines ordered for closure include those run by Hinatuan Mining Corp., a unit of top Philippine nickel ore producer Nickel Asia Corp, and BenguetCorp Nickel Mines, Inc.

The decision has rocked the global nickel market as the Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,100 islands, is the world’s biggest exporter of nickel ore.

It also angered mining firms in the country who say the process followed by the minister was neither legal nor fair.

“I am not going to buckle,” she told Reuters after a closed-door meeting of an inter-agency mining council.

The panel sought a review of her decision to close the mines to ensure due process was followed and look into the impact on jobs and taxes.

“The (council) is recommendatory to me. They’re not my boss,” Lopez said. “Nobody can tell me what to do except the president.”

Damage to watersheds and siltation of coastal waters where the mines are located were the major reasons cited that led to Lopez’s decision to shut the mines.

“It’s totally in my right to close down the mines,” Lopez said in an earlier briefing and her decision has the backing of President Rodrigo Duterte, who has the final say on the fate of the affected mines.

Fifteen of the 23 mines ordered closed are within watershed areas.

Sources told Reuters that a team that reviewed an audit of the country’s mines recommended suspension of operations and payment of fines for environmental violations, rather than closures.

Lopez said it would take a miracle to convince her to allow mining in watersheds.

She said the mining companies can appeal her decision to the office of the president. If the president upholds the closure, they can go to court but they would have to halt operations while the matter is decided.

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines is pressing the environment agency to release the audit behind the closures. (With Reuters)


INQUIRER

Economists: Tuition-free SUC education ‘anti-poor’ By: Doris Dumlao-Abadilla - Reporter / @philbizwatcherPhilippine Daily Inquirer / 11:34 AM February 07, 2017

A group of prominent economists and socio-political thinkers vehemently opposed proposals to mandate state universities and colleges (SUCs) to offer tuition-free education, arguing that while “well-intended,” such a policy would be “anti-poor.”

In a press statement issued on Tuesday, advocacy group Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) instead pushed for the implementation of an existing law that unifies and rationalizes all modalities for student financial assistance, including scholarships, grants-in-aid and student loans.

FEF said the proposal to increase funding for free tuition to SUCs would benefit higher-income students and provide unfair competition to private institutions which are more efficient in providing higher education.

READ MORE...

Providing P8.3 billion to SUCs for free tuition is “anti-poor” because this considers only tuition in the cost of higher education, FEF said.

“Tuition covers only one-third of the cost of attending college. The balance consists of cost of living allowances, which the poor are in no position to pay. Higher income students who have the ability to pay for these living allowances will end up using the free tuition subsidy,” FEF said.

FEF also argued that enrollment in SUCs was already highly favorable to higher income students.

The group quoted a research by FEF fellows Aniceo Orbeta and Vicente Paqueo who cited – based on the 1999 and 2014 Annual Poverty Indicators Survey – that the bulk of students in public higher educational institutions were mostly from higher income groups while students coming from the bottom 20 percent consisted of only 11 percent in 1999 and 12 percent in 2014.

“Students from poor families are only a small proportion of SUCs’ student population because they can hardly pay for the full cost of attending college which not only consists of tuition, but board and lodging expenses as well. They are also less prepared academically to pass the entrance exams and pass the academic requirements of four-year college courses,” FEF argued.

“Increasing the budget for free tuition will intensify the exodus of higher income students from private educational institutions toward SUCs and further worsen the proportion of poor students attending SUCs. Higher income students who are more academically prepared will capture the benefits of free college education.”

FEF also feared that the allocation of P8.3 billion for free college tuition would hurt private higher education institutions by creating unfair competition. It added that private higher educational institutions were not in a similar position of being able to offer free tuition from taxpayer pesos.

AQUINO LAW

As an alternative, the group instead proposed that the government channel funds to implement the Unified Student Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST), enacted into law through Republic Act No. 10687.

Signed into law by then Pres. Benigno Aquino in 2015, this piece of legislation provides a comprehensive and unified financial assistance system to tertiary students in the Philippines. This was meant to give qualified and disadvantaged students access to scholarships and other forms of financial support without the patronage of politicians.

“It also doesn’t favor SUCs over private higher educational institutions as the assistance is given to the student and not the school,” FEF said of the UniFAST law.

“Targeting the poor with full financing using grants-in-aid under the Uni FAST law will clearly benefit more poor students than an untargeted general tuition subsidy for students of SUCs,” the FEF said, quoting fellows Orbeta and Paqueo.

Sen. Bam Aquino, who chairs the Committee of Education in the 17th Congress, is the proponent of a bill seeking to make tertiary education in all SUCs free for all students.

Citing data submitted by the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges, Aquino said on Tuesday that up to 77 percent of students from majority of SUCs come from a family earning minimum wage income or less.

“They may not be the poorest of the poor, but many of them still come from families of minimum wage earners that need help to cover major expenses like tuition fees,” Aquino argued.

“It’s unfortunate that some groups fail to see the value of this policy. But many of us in the Senate believe this is a step in the right direction,” he added.

ECONOMISTS AT FEF

FEF, an advocacy group for good economic governance and market-friendly reforms, is chaired by former Finance Secretary Roberto de Ocampo. Its vice chair is Romy Bernardo while the president is Calixto Chikiamco. Its senior advisers are former Prime Minister/Finance Minister Cesar Virata and UP Economics Professor Emeritus and former Economic Planning Minister Gerardo Sicat. Board members include Anthony Abad, Art Corpuz, Eduardo Gana, Felipe Medalla, Vaugh Montes, Simon Paterno, Perry Pe and Gloria Tan-Climaco.

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RELATED FROM PHILSTAR

Duterte economic team opposes free SUC tuition, favors alternative By Audrey Morallo (philstar.com) | Updated February 9, 2017 - 5:02pm 9 67 googleplus1 0


Economic managers of the government oppose an across-the-board free tuition policy and favor alternative student assistance financing. STAR/File

MANILA, Philippines— The economic managers of President Rodrigo Duterte are opposed to proposals on free tuition for all undergraduate students, putting forward instead a student assistance fund as a "better alternative."

According to Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, the proposed free tuition for college students would largely benefit non-poor students who constitute the majority in state universities and colleges (SUCs).

Instead, they are pushing the government to fully fund the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST).

The president's economic team said that UniFAST would provide a more coherent and comprehensive framework that would address the educational needs of students. In addition, this would also deliver efficiently and effectively government funds to those who needed them the most.

"We recognize that college education is important for Filipinos," Pernia said. "Many employers also prefer college graduates. However, we need to carefully study our options for helping people achieve their aspirations for higher education, considering other needs."

Youth group Anakbayan said in January, however, that the argument against free tuition represents the view of "big businesses and neoliberal-minded officials who are against free tuition and favor the perpetuation of a commercialized and profit-oriented education."

The group said that "the poorest of the poor will be able to afford education once it is brought back to the public and becomes fully funded by the government."

Kabataan paty-list, one of its allies at the House of Representatives, has filed a bill that seeks to make education free in all public education institutions. The bill, if passed, will abolish school fees "except fees related to student activities, including student organizations, student governments and councils, and student publications."

The bill proposes to include the cost of attendance in the annual budgets of SUCs and local universities and colleges.

Hopes for free tuition in SUCs rose last year after the Senate realigned P8.3 billion from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao budget to cover the tuition of students studying in public educational institutions.

READ: Free tuition in state schools next year

"That's purely for tuition, that's purely to remove tuition from the student expenses," Commission on Higher Education chair Patricia Licuanan said at the time.

'Only 12 percent of students from bottom 20 percent'

The economic managers said that based on the Annual Poverty Indicators Survey in 2014, only 12 percent of SUC students belonged to the bottom 20 percent of the family income classification.

In addition, the economic managers said that tuition did not constitute the biggest share of college education cost.

According to the government's Student Grants-in-Aid Program Poverty Alleviation (SGP-PA), tuition constitutes only one-third (P20,000) of the P60,000 annual cost per student.

The bigger chunk is for living expenses (P35,000 for 10 months) and instructional materials (P5,000).

The economic managers believe that even if free SUC tuition is granted, poor families would still be unable to pay for the remaining costs of college education.

The economic managers said that an across-the-board free tuition policy would result in the exodus of students toward SUCs from private higher educational institutions (HEIs) which would affect the overall quality of graduates because some HEIs perform better than SUCs.

The economic managers also stated that the budgetary support for free tuition would be difficult to sustain.

They said that the estimated 1.4 million students enrolled in SUCs would require P28 billion to cover their total tuition fees.

UniFAST, established in 2014 through Republic Act 10687, provides student financial assistance programs in the form of scholarships, grants-in-aid and student loans for tertiary students. The law also gives deserving students full financing, an arrangement which generally favors the poor.

The economic managers also stressed the advantages of the UniFAST. According to them, under this system there is a clear delineation among its three types of financial aid in terms of objectives and target beneficiaries.

The system is also applicable to both SUCs and private HEIs, has a test-based eligibility requirement and adheres to the standards of the CHED.

"The government should implement its mandate of promoting quality and accessible education within the limits of fiscal prudence, and with the use of appropriate tools and targeting mechanism," the economic team of the government explained.


PHILSTAR

Trump controversies continue SPYBITS By Babe G. Romualdez (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 9, 2017 - 12:00am 3 0 googleplus0 0

He’s only been in office for three weeks, but US president Donald Trump is driving controversies from left, right, front and center.

His executive order banning immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries has sparked global condemnation with thousands continuing to protest across cities in the US (and even in Auckland, New Zealand) and leaders describing the order as racist.

And now, the ban seems to be pitting the executive against the judiciary after a US District Court judge in Seattle imposed a nationwide temporary restraining order against Trump’s ban, opining that it is unconstitutional. Justice Department lawyers insist the US President has the authority to ban the entry of “any class of aliens” as long as there is rational basis that they pose a threat to national security.

Trump has also launched a Twitter offensive, berating the “so-called judge” for issuing a “ridiculous” decision – which might not work in his favor since the appeals court is deliberating on the future of the executive order. As everyone knows, judges tend to be collegial and any attack on one may be deemed an attack on the rest of them.

Trump is definitely not Mr. Popular, and his critics and foes are also having a heyday attacking him.

READ MORE...

A controversial cover by the German magazine Der Spiegel shows a cartoon of Trump triumphantly holding aloft a bloody knife on one hand and the severed head of the Statue of Liberty on the other, with blood dripping on the floor. The caption reads, “America First” – Trump’s battle cry and promise during his inauguration.

The cartoon has sparked outrage from conservatives who said it was tasteless, criticizing the magazine and its editor as having “lost all their moral guidelines.”

The editor defended the cover, saying the issue is about democracy, justice and freedom of the press which he said are now seriously endangered under Trump.

Trump’s businesses are also getting serious scrutiny following the release of documents that show a potential conflict of interest as it would seem he has retained ownership of his business empire through a Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust which is tied in with his Social Security Number.

Named as trustees are his son, Donald Jr., and the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization – but the US President can revoke their authority anytime. According to the Washington Post, the purpose of the revocable trust is to “hold assets for the exclusive benefit” of Trump. Reports also say the US President recently transferred some residential condominiums he owns into the revocable trust.

Safety first

Among the key ingredients which foreign businessmen look for in a country before deciding to invest are stability, safety and security. However, recent developments have unnerved investors and may have even turned away potential ones – most notably the brutal kidnapping and murder of Korean national Jee Ick-joo by members of the Philippine National Police.

A statement by the Joint Foreign Chambers expressed the fears of businessmen about peace and order, and their doubts about the capability of government authorities to guarantee their personal safety. While President Duterte has given assurances that those responsible for the Korean’s death will get the maximum penalty, a full investigation should be speedily conducted and the case should not be allowed to drag on.

It’s bad enough when criminals get away with murder, but it’s even worse when those who are supposed to enforce the law and protect the people (both locals and foreigners) turn out to be the lawbreakers and criminals themselves. This is definitely not good for business.

Ongpin secretary deserves Medal of Valor

If there’s anyone who should be awarded a Purple Heart, a Gold Cross and a Medal of Valor – it would be Josephine “Jojo” Manalo, the longtime secretary of businessman Roberto “Bobby” Ongpin.

People familiar with Bobby know him to be feisty, cantankerous, sometimes grouchy, sometimes angry – but through it all, Jojo stayed on, taking in all the quirks of her irascible boss. She started working for Bobby Ongpin at the age of 23 and has endured him for 50 years. If anything, she definitely deserves all kinds of medals for her loyalty and dedication to service.

In fairness to Bobby though, a number of people who have worked with him especially when he was minister of trade only have high praises for him as a mentor and leader. He may be harsh at times, but his discipline plus the hard work he puts into every project has also rubbed off on many of them, like former Philippine Economic Zone Authority director general Lilia de Lima. She learned so much from him, that’s why she was so successful at PEZA – undoubtedly one of the best PEZA chiefs ever.

Bobby in fact called Lilia one of his “angels” who helped him “survive” his seven-year stint as minister of trade. Lilia de Lima is all praises for RVO.


By Babe Romualdez

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RELATED FROM PHILSTAR

Filipina speaker in 4th Fortune Most Powerful Women Int’l Summit (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 12, 2017 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0 Revilla


Chaye Cabal-Revilla PLDT Group Controller; Smart Chief Financial Officer PhilippinesTelecommunications Current Smart Communications, Inc., PLDT Global Corporation, Digital Telecommunications Philippines Inc. Previous Cignal TV Inc., SGV Co. | Education Asian Institute of Management

MANILA, Philippines - The 4th Fortune Most Powerful Women International Summit that will be held on Feb. 28 in Hong Kong will feature a lone Filipina guest speaker, Chaye Cabal-Revilla, chief financial officer of Smart Communications and group controller, PLDT Inc.

This year’s theme, “Building a Better Future,” will include high-level conversations focused on what the future holds for many aspects of business, which includes talent, workplace, culture, brand and innovation.

The program will also examine how geopolitical changes will impact investments in the region and how companies can best capitalize on Asia’s growing middle class.


MANILA STANDARD

Meralco expects big rate hike posted February 08, 2017 at 10:04 pm by Alena Mae S. Flores

Power consumers can expect a “significant increase” in generation charges this month from an all-time low in January, because of the maintenance shutdown of several plants and higher fuel costs, Manila Electric Co. said Wednesday.

“Coming from a record low in January, we expect a significant increase in the generation charge due to normalization of capacity fees for Pagbilao and Ilijan [power plants], lower dispatch of plants that went on maintenance [Calaca, Masinloc and First Gas-Sta. Rita] and higher fuel costs,” Meralco senior vice president and head of utility economics Lawrence Fernandez said.

Fernandez did not give specific details on the impending increase. Meralco will release the final figures Friday.

“We also anticipate higher transmission charges, with the recent approval of the higher MAR [maximum allowable revenue] for NGCP [National Grid Corp. of the Philippines],” he said.

READ MORE...

Meralco spokesman Joe Zaldarriaga said the generation charge was expected to normalize from January when it hit an all-time low.

“If you will recall, generation costs were comparable to October 2004 rates while overall costs were approximate to that of October 2009. There was also a reduction then in the capacity fees of Pagbilao and Ilijan as a result of the annual reconciliation of outage allowances. This significant reduction will no longer be present in the February generation charge,” Zaldarriaga said.

He said fuel prices, dispatch levels and foreign exchange would also have an impact on generation charges.

Meralco announced in January that rates for households declined by P0.2703 per kilowatt-hour, bringing it down to P8.09 per kilowatt-hour, the lowest since October 2009.

Meralco attributed the lower rates last month to the decline in generation charge by P0.2351 per kWh to P3.9351 per kWh in December.

“The decrease resulted from the P0.59 per kWh decrease in the cost of power supplied by PSA [power supply agreement] plants, mainly due to lower capacity charges of Pagbilao and Ilijan. This reduction in capacity fees is due to the annual reconciliation of outage allowances that is done at the end of each year under the contracts approved by the Energy Regulatory Commission. The capacity fees from these suppliers will normalize in the following month,” Meralco said earlier.

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RELATED FROM THE INQUIRER

REVENUE LEAKS: BOC steps up probe of oil, cigarette smuggling By: Ben O. de Vera - Reporter / @bendeveraINQPhilippine Daily Inquirer / 12:12 AM February 11, 2017



The Bureau of Customs (BOC) Friday warned suspected smugglers of cigarettes, luxury cars and oil products that their days were numbered, as the agency intensified probe of their unscrupulous activities that cost the government foregone revenue equivalent to a tenth of its annual collection target.

“Customs Commissioner Nicanor E. Faeldon, in response to public clamor for investigation, has directed the BOC intelligence and investigation service to look into reports of rampant oil, luxury vehicle and cigarette smuggling in many parts of the country,” the BOC said in a statement.

“The BOC has a list of companies suspected of being engaged in the [smuggling] of oil, motor vehicles (including high-end importers) and cigarettes bearing fake Bureau of Internal Revenue tax stamps to defraud the government,” it added.

BOC data showed that smuggling of cigarettes, oil and luxury vehicles were the “top sources of revenue leaks,” with foregone revenue reaching more than P50 billion yearly or about 10.7 percent of the annual revenue target averaging P467.9 billion, the country’s second largest tax-collection agency said.

Citing reports of the Washington-based watchdog Global Financial Integrity as well as the International Monetary Fund, the BOC said it had been unable to collect P22.5 billion from oil, P21 billion from vehicles and P16 billion from cigarettes due to smuggling each year.

Other estimates on foregone revenue from the smuggling of these products were at a higher P165.5 billion or about $3.85 billion yearly, the BOC said, citing its records.

Faeldon said he wanted to end during his term as BOC head “prevalent” misinvoicing of imported goods as well as fraudulent misrepresentation or misdeclaration—both underdeclaration and overdeclaration—of the real value of imported goods.

“We are ready to use all available options in the probe against erring companies [importing] oil, motor vehicles and cigarettes to make sure we control all forms of revenue leaks that are seriously detrimental to hitting revenue targets… It will never be an easy task for us, but we will toil hard through sweat and blood, only to make sure that we do our jobs in our faithful compliance to our mandated tasks as public servants,” Faeldon said.

“The probe is part of the BOC’s mandated effort to collect revenues, stop bribery in the agency, and ferociously snuff smuggling to hit revenue targets and enforce critical reforms in line with the policies of President Duterte,” he added.


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