SURIGAO del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers on Monday extolled the plan of Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez III to create the government inter-agency task group to revive operations of its idle mining assets.
Barbers lauded and expressed full support to the DoF’s initiative to create an interagency team tasked to clear legal impediments, fast track privatization, revive operations and generate jobs from several non-operating government mining assets.
He added that the government should lead the way to clear all ‘legal roadblocks’ being faced by these stalled mining firms due to lawsuits filed by the private sector proponents in the operations of these once-flourishing mining assets.
“There are at least five huge government mining assets with legal impediments pending for several decades now. We need to clear these legal roadblocks to harness and increase their output and contribute to our currently threatened economy due to the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic,” said Barbers, chairman of the House committee on dangerous drugs,
The Mindanao House leader, one of the principal advocates from the Lower House in reinvigorating the local mining sector to help the economy, earlier urged the country’s economic managers to revisit and come up with new sound policies in the mining sector to attract foreign investors.
“Mr. Speaker, I think this is a feasible and realistic solution. While we are months or years away to a COVID vaccine, our economy needs immediate vaccination. And mining is the solution,” Barbers said in a privilege speech delivered last August 10 at the House plenary.
On Saturday, Dominguez said the inter-agency team would be composed of representatives from the DoF, the Privatization and Management Office (PMO), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) as well as the Office of the Solicitor General.
The DoF-attached PMO is in-charge of selling idle assets such as land and shares of stock. The DoF said the PMO and the MGB must first harmonize their separate state asset and mine privatization functions, respectively, before the government’s mining assets can be auctioned.
The PMO earlier told the DoF chief that the following government-held assets were under litigation: Maricalum Mining Corp.’s copper-gold project in Negros Occidental; Nonoc Mining and Industrial Corp.’s nickel mines in Surigao del Norte, and North Davao Mining’s property in Davao del Norte, which the DOF described as “gold- and copper-rich.”
“Maricalum Mining, Nonoc Mining and North Davao Mining were once successful mining companies that have failed to settle their debts with government financial institutions, leading to their foreclosure and transfer of their assets and shares of stocks to the national government,” the DoF said.
The government then auctioned off the shares of these mining firms, but the firms with the highest bid failed to fulfill their obligations, which resulted in decades of litigation that have left these mining assets idle, the DoF added.
Two other assets, the PMO said, the Basay Mining Corp.’s copper mines in Negros Oriental as well as Marinduque Mining and Industrial Corp.’s former nickel mine (MMIC Bagacay Mine) in Western Samar—were “inoperational because of legal concerns on how these assets should be disposed.”
A PMO technical study indicated that the Basay mine is estimated to contain at least 105 million tons of copper ore and could generate at least P1 billion.