Hundreds march to DMCI condemning influence on coal tax exemption
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Peoples’ groups, environmental and energy advocates stormed the gates of DMCI to condemn and shame the company for influencing lawmakers to exempt local coal from the coal tax.
Members of the Power for People Coalition awarded coal oligarch Consunji with the “King Coal award,” signifying his influence over lawmakers and his company’s 40-year coal addiction.
“After threatening the consumers that a coal tax will lead to higher electricity costs, DMCI’s Isidro Consunji shed all pretension and showed the public who he was really protecting all along,” said Atty. Aaron Pedrosa of Sanlakas, one of the convenors of the P4P Coalition.
“Like a thief in the night, DMCI rallied its allies in the Congress to delete the provision on coal tax even after deliberations were over,” Pedrosa added.
The Coalition’s condemnation aligns with the stands of the coal tax proponents, including Sen. Joel Villanueva who called out DMCI-owned Semirara Mining and Power Corporation (SMPC) as behind the tweaking of the tax policy.
“We call on the President to finally walk his talk on his hatred for oligarchs and outwardly condemn this act from the Consunjis,” said Pedrosa. “Letting DMCI off the hook would just prove that the President cannot be held accountable, even to his own word,” he stated.
Communities from Semirara Island, Antique shed light upon the real cost of coal from their experience in suffering the longest-running mining operation in the country.
“Sa 40 taon ng pagmimina ng SMC sa aming isla, walang kahit anong kabayarang nakarating sa amin para sa nawasak naming kabuhayan at kalikasan,” said Rodrigo Cabatac, member of Sabang Poocan Farmers and Fisherfolks Association (SAPOFFA) and a resident of Semirara.
“Nakakagalit na lahat na lang ng panggigipit at pag-iwas sa responsibilidad ay ginawa ng kumpanyang ito. Sana naman ay magising na ang Kongreso at si Pang. Duterte sa paghahariharian ng DMCI at SMC at patigilin na at ipasara ang mina sa amin,” Cabatac added.
National groups noted the notoriety of DMCI in twisting the arm of the government to get its way on several issues. “DMCI continually shows it disrespect for the People and democratic institutions,” said Erwin Puhawan of the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC).
“In as much as DMCI constructed its Torre De Manila condominium obstructing the Rizal Park skyline, DMCI has also obstructed justice to reach energy consumers and coal-affected communities by excluding itself from paying taxes,” Puhawan added.
“DMCI and its allies in the House of Representatives pushing for exemption is not only proof of circumvention of due process, but also a circumvention of any form of environmental regulation, given that Semirara coal is even dirtier since it is of lower grade compared to Indonesian coal,” said Atty. Avril De Torres of the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED). “Exempting DMCI from being taxed equates to awarding the company for environmental degradation,” she noted.
“SMPC has not only destroyed much of Antique’s livelihood and resources as the largest coal producer in the country, but it also has evaded accountability in just how much it is earning and giving back to the public due to its refusal to participate in the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI),” she added. “This is on top of the poor working conditions in the mines which endanger the lives of miners in the island — with 14 miners killed in just the last four years of its operation,” De Torres concluded.
“If the Duterte government is true to its belief in market economics, then it has to be consistent with leveling the playing field for all players,” said Ian Rivera, National Coordinator of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice. “What DMCI has done to influence coal tax legislation in favor of domestic coal violates market economics, the very foundation of Duterte Government’s Philippine Development Plan and the 10-point Socioeconomic Program,” Rivera noted.
“If this government cannot discipline these oligarchs undermining the legislative mill while continuing to use its iron fist against people’s clamor for socio-economic rights and reforms, then truly it is no different from its predecessors known for favoring segmented elite interests,” Rivera continued.