Good gov’t panel ends quarrying probe

Published June 6, 2018, 7:09 PM

by Roel Tibay

By Ellson Quismorio

The Surigao del Sur 2nd district Rep. Johnny Pimentel-chaired House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability concluded its probe on the alleged questionable quarrying activities in various parts of the country just before Congress’s sine die adjournment.

Surigao del Sur 2nd district Rep. Johnny Pimentel (photo from House of Representatives)
Surigao del Sur 2nd district Rep. Johnny Pimentel (photo from House of Representatives)

The House inquiry, which focused on the alleged corruption and irregularities in the imposition, collection, and distribution of taxes and fees on the quarrying operations in Nueva Ecija, Cebu, Marinduque, and Negros Oriental was pursuant to House Resolution (HR) 1505. It was done in aid of legislation.

“In the final analysis the committee will determine whether remedial legislation would be necessary to address the issues referred to the jurisdiction of this committee,” Pimentel said.

Pimentel said the primary issue of the investigation had to do with the power of the local government to impose taxes and fees on quarrying operations within its territorial jurisdiction.

Under Republic Act (RA) 7160, also known as the Local Government Code of 1991, local government units (LGUs) are authorized to impose taxes, fees and charges on sources of revenue.

Pimentel said LGUs are likewise authorized to issue quarry permits and the collection of quarry fees exclusively by the provincial government, although the tax revenues from quarrying operations are shared among LGUs.

During the course of the committee meetings, the provincial government of Nueva Ecija asserted that their authority to issue the quarry permit for commercial sand and gravel was vested under RA 7160 and RA 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.

Meanwhile, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) maintained that it has the exclusive authority to issue the environment compliance certificate (ECC) required for the issuance of any quarry permit.

Another contentious issue the panel took up was the proper and timely distribution of the shares of the LGUs on the collected taxes from the quarry operations.

Pimentel says the mandate of his panel is to determine whether or not laws were violated and whether or not public officials and employees can be held liable.

No checks and balances

Nueva Ecija 3rd district Rep. Ria Vergara, one of the authors of HR 1505, proposed to the panel to recommend to the Ombudsman the filing of the appropriate criminal and administrative charges against the responsible provincial government officials for their malfeasance and misfeasance.

She said the inquiry led to the discovery of other anomalies in the quarry operations of Nueva Ecija.

These include the blatant disregard of the system of checks and balances put in place by the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and its implementing rules and regulations by relegating the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) as a useless regulatory body.

Vergara claimed that the provincial government has been requiring quarry operators to secure local ECCs in lieu of the ECCs issued by the DENR. She called the local version “another tool
for corruption,” adding they were imposed “without any legal basis.”

The lady solon also cited the provincial government’s violations of its own Revenue Code in connection with the submission of hauling slips and production reports as well as the timely and orderly distribution of quarry tax shares of the LGUs.

Vergara proposed the review of the relevant provisions of the Local Government Code, the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and the relevant rules and regulations to ensure that the quarry operations will be carried out with the proper and adequate system of checks and balances.

Meanwhile, Negros Oriental 3rd district Rep. Arnulfo Teves, Jr. pressed for the immediate filing of cases against quarry operators in his province who violate the measures and conditions of the ECC.