Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III may have benefited from his pro-mining stance that undermines the crackdown on irresponsible mining operations launched by former Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez. This was stressed on Thursday by environmental group Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE), as the group urged President Duterte to look into Dominguez’s mining interest.
The group added Congress should now prioritize the passage of House Bill 2715, or the people’s mining bill, a proposed law filed by the progressive Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives, which aims to reorient the mining industry toward needs-based extraction, national industrialization, and the protection of people’s rights and the environment.
Dominguez, as the Department of Finance (DOF) secretary, is the cochairman of the Departnment of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) chief in the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC), which is currently reviewing Lopez’s controversial mine closure and suspension orders.
Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kaliksan-PNE, accused Dominguez of using his position to intervene in governance matters that can benefit his family’s own mining interests.
No less than Lopez herself accused the Department of Finance (DOF) chief of being biased for mining because of this.
“Secretary Dominguez and his clan’s mining interests were threatened by the bold mining regulations implemented by now former DENR Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez. Dominguez should be investigated, as it is unethical and even bordering on graft for a highly partisan mining oligarch, such as himself, to intervene in governance matters that can benefit his family’s own mining interests,” Bautista said in a statement.
Dominguez and his family have stakes in mining companies, such as Alsons, Sagittarius Mines, Lafayette Philippines, United Paragon Mining and Philex, over the past two decades, Bautista alleged.
“These companies were adversely affected by the permit cancellation of companies located in functioning watersheds initiated by Lopez,” he said.
Paul Dominguez, the brother of the DOF chief, is one of the executives of SMI.
According to Bautista, Dominguez has shares in Philex Mining as indicated in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth, which, the official explained, was a gift of his wife to his son when he was still a minor.
He added that Dominguez is still declared as the president of the Lafayette Philippines Inc., which operates a gold mine on Rapu-Rapu Island, Albay.
“He is also still an independent director of United Paragon Mining Corp., which owns the Longos Mine in Paracale, Camarines Norte,” Bautista said.
Dominguez recently released public statements that opposed Lopez’s confirmation as DENR secretary.
The official convened the MICC to review the DENR’s mine closure, suspension and mining contract cancellation orders, which undermined the crackdown on irresponsible mining launched by Lopez, Bautista lamented.
Meanwhile, Bautista also said the “business as usual” tone in Dominguez’s pronouncements and actions conflicts with the marching orders of President Duterte to ban irresponsible big mines. “Dominguez pitched for mining investments during the recently
held Philippine Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative National Conference, where he said we should ‘encourage and not suppress extractive industries’,” Bautista said.
According to Bautista, Dominguez recused himself from using his office’s recommendatory powers to help push reforms in mining policies and programs, saying “if certain quarters think the law is unfair, they should work to change the law, as violation of the laws is not an option for any government official or any good citizen for that matter”.
“Dominguez is intent on pursuing a ‘business as usual’ mining policy. His indifference to the urgent need to reverse the unbridled liberalization of the mining industry toward a stronger public orientation and regulatory regime indicates his preference for the destructive and plunderous characteristic of the mining industry. Only transnational corporations and local mining oligarchs benefit from this export-oriented and foreign-dominated orientation of the industry,” Bautista said.