CAMPAIGN on TAX JUSTICE and EXTRACTIVES INDUSTRY
Issue Brief: Public Services and the Urgency of Tax Justice for Mining-Affected Communities in the Philippines
Read the PDF version here.
Many communities in the Philippines suffer the disastrous effects of open-pit mining. At least 75% of mining corporations audited by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in 2016 employed open-pit mining methods for extracting copper, gold, nickel, and chromite1. From 2017 to 2021, several open-pit mining exploration permits and all other pending applications were suspended as a result of the mine audit, which found widespread violations of environmental and social standards in a majority of existing open-pit sites2.
Open-pit mining is a type of mining operation that involves removing large amounts of earth to access deposits of valuable minerals or ore and remains to be the most widely employed method for mineral extraction in the Philippines. While the mining industry promises that mineral extraction is an important source of income and economic development for a community, open-pit mining has been proven to be associated with several negative impacts.
Communities witnessed how open-pit mining largely contributed to destruction of the local environment. To access the minerals or ore, large amounts of topsoil and underlying earth must be removed. This results in air, water, and noise pollution, as well as damage to habitats and ecosystems. This has a range of negative consequences for the local flora and fauna, and results in the loss of essential resources like timber, arable land, and clean water. This was clearly demonstrated by the1996 Marcopper disaster in Marinduque which annihilated the biosphere of the Boac River and the flooding of twenty villages due to polluted water from mine tailings contaminating the river basin3. In Manicani, the waste produced by the Hinatuan Mining Corporation's nickel mine led to environmental degradation via polluted water due to excessive soil extraction and rain run-off4.
In addition to environmental impacts, open-pit mining also has social and economic impacts on the local community, such as public health. The noise, dust, and other forms of pollution triggered by mining operations have been linked to respiratory and other illnesses as well as water-borne diseases from polluted water. In Sta. Cruz, Zambales where four major nickel mining companies were suspended in 2014 for violations of environmental regulations5, there were noted instances of acute upper respiratory infections, skin rashes, and several other diseases among mining-affected communities6. As such, mining-affected communities have specific medical and other health needs that arise because of their direct and indirect exposure to mining operations’ hazards and other impacts. This requires access to services that address, among others, the specific health impacts of pollutants created by the mining operations.
Due to the location-specific nature of the extractive industry, mining operations strike deep into remote areas where mineral and other natural resources are most rich and where communities’ livelihoods and cultures are defined by their close affinity to the natural environment. These communities, however, have historically been among the most marginalized from the centers of political power and economic decision-making, and have had to survive with the least access to public services and other support systems, including basic medical care and preventative health services, such as vaccinations and screenings. Region IVB (MIMAROPA), home to some of the largest mining operations such as the Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation in Palawan and previously Marcopper in Marinduque, is the region with one of the lowest doctor-to-patient ratios (1.8/10,000) and hospital bed-to-patient ratios (1/10,000) in the country. These figures fall drastically below the 10/10,000 ratio prescribed by the World Health Organization7. In addition, the health spending of provinces affected by mining decreased from 21.43% of their total operating expenses in 2005 to only 16.1% in 2010 despite the generally upward trend of mining output in this period8.
As it stands, mining does little to improve the social and economic health of these communities. Indeed, mineral-rich communities have historically been deprived of access to public services such as electrification, schools, and hospitals. This lack of access is compounded and further compromised by the impact of mining on the land and water resources of these communities through mining pollution, affecting agricultural livelihoods. In Didipio where mining operations of Oceana Gold Inc. (OGI) take place, households are estimated to only utilize 0.4% of the water resources used by corporations in the Didipio Mine9.
Public Services Essential to Communities’ Health and Resilience
To mitigate the effects of pollution caused by open-pit mining, the government must urgently provide public services such as clean drinking water, health care, and education to mining-affected communities.
Much of this damage co-occurs with the continuation of mining operations, hence communities’ call to halt mining activities in severely impacted areas. The Writ of Kalikasan10 is an important legal tool in this regard, as used successfully by the Concerned Citizens of Santa Cruz Zamboanga against five mining corporations in 2016. The issuance of the Writ urged the court to suspend mining operations in the area to halt immediate damage to the water sources11.
Likewise, if the mining operations result in air or water pollution, it is essential to prioritize ecological restoration to help protect the health and well-being of the community. As it stands, there is a lack of sufficient recognition of ecological destruction by government or the culpability of this destruction by large mining corporations. Mining companies must account for the costs of community rehabilitation and ecological restoration.
Not only do public services mitigate immediate impacts, they also build or restore communities’ resilience, including abilities to sustain livelihoods in the long run. Providing access to education and jobs, as well as subsidies for local businesses, helps to ensure that members of the community are equipped to participate in the local economy and prioritize ecological restoration.
However, public education and job trainings mean little if the land becomes unusable for economic development. This was indeed the case in Tampakan, South Cotabato, where mining waste from tailing ponds threatened the fecundity of local farmlands and the viability of the tuna industry in General Santos12. Philippine provinces hosting large-scale mining operations are among those with the highest poverty incidence with at least 30% of their population living below the poverty line, with the exception of provinces that have diversified economic activities beyond mining13. Hence, it is necessary to prioritize the preservation of land and water resources such as agriculture and fisheries that are independent of mining activities.
Gender-responsive public services must also be in place for women in mining-affected communities. Access to reproductive health care and family planning services, as well as support for maternal and child health are often out of reach in rural mining areas. Women in communities affected by mining tend to carry the responsibility of providing food for their families and therefore need access to food sources, which can be severely compromised by the impacts of open-pit mining on agricultural lands. Chemicals used in the mining process leeches into the soil and contaminate local crops, making them unsafe for food consumption. Similarly, water pollution increases the difficulty for women to access clean water for irrigation, cooking, and drinking, and impacts the availability of local fruits, vegetables, and other food sources.
Increased vulnerabilities to natural disasters and Irreversible Effects of Mining
Mining-affected communities are also more vulnerable to natural disasters and require specific disaster risk management services. Open-pit mining creates risks of landslides, flash flooding, and other natural disasters that occur with heavy rains or earthquakes because forests absorb and retain a lot of water and open-pit mining destroys an environment’s ability to absorb water through the destruction of the forest and compromising soil integrity. These vulnerabilities are first and foremost caused by the open-pit method itself. Hence, many communities advocate for the reduction or cessation of these operations to alleviate these vulnerabilities.
However, restoration may even be more challenging, if not impossible, for areas with long-term exposure to open-pit mining or other irreversible effects of mining. In a number of high-profile cases, mining results in the complete destruction of the local environment, making it difficult or impossible to restore the area to its previous natural state. In other cases, the damage may be more limited, but can still be significant, requiring large-scale restoration efforts. The restored environment may also be vulnerable to future damage from other human activities, such as logging or development. Hence, communities in these areas demand rehabilitation and ecological restoration as urgent measures that governments must compel mining corporations to undertake.
Mitigating Mining’s Social Impacts and Economic Deficits Through Tax Justice
There is a need to systematically address mining’s social and environmental impacts through stricter regulation of the industry and comprehensive provision of public services. Mining companies should be made to pay for rehabilitation and compensation for social and ecological damages. Mining profits should be taxed fairly and justly to raise the countries’ domestic revenues.
All in all, the scale of the extractive industry’s environmental impacts and communities’ heightened vulnerability to poverty, food insecurity, and ecological risk underscore the critical importance of tax justice in the extractives sector. In the Philippines, the miniscule contribution of the extractives sector to the economy and employment sharply contrasts with the profits enjoyed by corporations. These issues to an environment where financial secrecy and regulatory loopholes in the taxation system enable large-scale tax avoidance.
Instead of plugging the leaks and addressing tax abuses by corporations, the Philippine government itself allows for large-scale revenue erosion in the sector through its provision of tax incentives in mining permits. Fiscal devolution where several layers of taxation operate from the local to the national level has also provided corporations the leeway to skirt tax obligations, and engendered legal challenges by local governments over taxing rights and revenue management.
Meanwhile, resources available for public services and addressing impacts of mining for affected communities are severely limited. Municipalities affected by mining were found to utilize and depend on tax revenues from mining to fund as much as 43% of their annual budgets14. As such, mining corporations’ repeated attempts to dodge taxation through challenging tax claims of local governments in court as in Nueva Vizcaya15 and South Cotabato16 gravely impede the provision of public services in communities most directly affected by extractives activities. To address the multiple crises faced by mining-affected communities, it is imperative that corporations are sanctioned to pay for the impacts and damages caused by mining and their just share of taxes to fund the provision of public services.
At the end of the day, the extractive industry impacts mining-affected communities’ ability to enjoy their right to access to quality public services many times over: firstly, by exposing communities to health hazards and other risks; secondly, by negatively impacting livelihoods and access to water and other natural resources which in turn increases their social and economic vulnerabilities and abilities to access affordable social services; and thirdly, because the foregone revenues lost to the extractive industry’s profit shifting and the tax incentives they enjoy, the public financing of social services for the entire country is also severely compromised.
Moving forward, addressing deficits in public services due to extractives activities requires transformative and multi-level policy reforms on the local, national, and global levels. The national government must proactively strengthen tax enforcement to make corporations pay their just share and ensure that mining tax revenue-sharing is made fairer, reducing the burden on local governments to generate revenues. There must also be efforts towards improving financial transparency in extractives on the local level, involving communities in reporting and analysis, on the national level through a stronger and public beneficial ownership registry, and on the global level through ensuring that developing countries like the Philippines are able to access automatic exchange of information (AEOI) and be able to work with other countries affected by extractives activities to curb transfer-pricing and other illicit financial flows (IFFs) in the sector through a democratically negotiated tax convention at the United Nations.
1 Mining Industry Coordinating Council, “Review of Philippine Large-Scale Metallic Mines: Going Beyond Compliance Towards Sustainability” MICC Policy Note, Vol. 1 No. 1, April 2022, https://www.dole.gov.ph/php_assets/uploads/2022/06/MICC-Mining-Policy-Note-Online-Version.pdf
2 Keith Schneider, “Philippines bans new open-pit metal mines,” Mongabay, April 28, 2017, https://news.mongabay.com/2017/04/philippines-bans-new-open-pit-metal-mines/
3 Gwen de la Cruz, “Look Back: The 1996 Marcopper Mining Disaster,” Rappler, March 24, 2017, sec. MovePH, https://www.rappler.com/moveph/165051-look-back-1996-marcopper-mining-disaster/.
4 PNA, “Hinatuan Mining Told to Stop Transporting Nickel Ore Stockpile,” SUNSTAR, July 21, 2016, https://www.sunstar.com.ph/article/87093/hinatuan-mining-told-to-stop-transporting-nickel-ore-stockpile.
5 “4 mining firms suspended over ‘unsystematic’ methods”. Rappler. July 24, 2014. https://www.rappler.com/business/industries/64247-4-mining-firms-suspended-unsystematic-methods/
6 Anniebeth N. Farin, “The Health Problems of the Residents in the Mining-Affected Areas in Santa Cruz, Zambales, Philipp by Iaset Journals,” International Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences 7, no. 6 (November 2018): 23–36.
7 UP COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team, “Estimating Local Healthcare Capacity to Deal with COVID-19 Case Surge: Analysis and Recommendations,” University of the Philippines, April 20,2020, https://up.edu.ph/estimating-local-healthcare-capacity-to-deal-with-covid-19-case-surge-analysis-and-recommendations/
8 Magno, Cielo (2016) “Extractive industries and the financing of child-inclusive social development in the Philippines: Trends and policy frameworks,” UNRISD Working Paper, No. 2016-2, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), Geneva, https://www.econstor.eu/handle/10419/148754
9 Magno, Cielo and John Christopher Lawrence Morillo, “Case studies on the water use of large scale mining in the Philippines,” UPSE Discussion Paper No. 2019-03 https://econ.upd.edu.ph/dp/index.php/dp/article/view/1522
10 The Writ of Kalikasan is a legal remedy that seeks to protect citizens and communities against acts that damage the environment, as guaranteed by the Philippine Constitution in recognition of the “right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature” (Article II, Section 16 of the 1987 Constitution)
11 Sunnex, “SC Issues Writ of Kalikasan vs 5 Mining Firms,” SUNSTAR, September 29, 2016, https://www.sunstar.com.ph/article/81424/sc-issues-writ-of-kalikasan-vs-5-mining-firms.
12 Justice and Peace Desk, Social Action Center, Diocese of Marbel, “Mining in the Municipality of Tampakan: Risks and Alternatives,” https://www.slideshare.net/no2mininginpalawan/mining-in-the-municipality-of-tampakanrisks-and-alternatives.
13 Magno, Cielo (2016) “Extractive industries and the financing of child-inclusive social development in the Philippines: Trends and policy frameworks,” UNRISD Working Paper, No. 2016-2, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), Geneva, https://www.econstor.eu/handle/10419/148754
15 John Victor D. Ordonez, “Tax court denies OceanaGold’s appeal to review liabilities,” BusinessWorld, June 7, 2022, https://www.bworldonline.com/corporate/2022/06/07/453185/tax-court-denies-oceanagolds-appeal-to-review-liabilities/
16 Bong S. Sarmiento, “Tampakan mine operator raps LGU over tax demand”, INQUIRER.Net, September 15, 2022, https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1664417/tampakan-mine-operator-raps-lgu-over-tax-demandi
21-25 Nov: Join the Global Days of Action for Tax Justice in the Extractives 2022
The Global Alliance for Tax Justice (GATJ) and its regional networks Tax and Fiscal Justice Asia (TAFJA), Tax Justice Network Africa (TJNA), and Red de Justicia Fiscal de América Latina y Caribe (RJFALC) will host the Global Days of Action for Tax Justice in the Extractive Industry from 21 to 25 November, 2022. The 4th edition of the campaign builds on the demands that the GATJ members have been pushing for since 2019, and calls more specifically for excess profits taxes on oil, mining and gas companies.
The continuing impacts of the global pandemic and the climate crisis have spawned a glaring gap between a tiny set of winners and the majority of the world’s population. In 2022, net profits of the 40 largest mining corporations grew by 127% from the previous year, surpassing their pre-pandemic revenues by more than double. However, few people benefited from the boom: research shows that there was a 130% rise in dividend payments and rewards for top executives, whereas many lost their homes, incomes and livelihoods.
Reports by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) expose that mining corporations systematically shift profits and wealth through corporate manoeuvring and shell companies registered in low-tax jurisdictions. On top of these illicit financial flows, they reveal the extent of regulatory capture by mining interests, involving patronage and corruption in processes of securing mining licences.
Social movements, particularly in climate, labour and gender justice, have been raising proposals for the extractive sector to operate responsibly with communities and the environment. Building connections with these demands, this campaign brings the perspectives of tax justice and the broader economic justice movement, calling for a rights-based economy that puts people and the planet at the centre of discussions and decision-making.
“The global crises make closing tax loopholes and raising more public revenues more urgent and imperative. However, the extractive sector continues to be given free rein to extract resources and profits with neither limits nor regard for social and economic costs or for irreversible environmental impacts,” said Dereje Alemayehu, Executive Coordinator of GATJ. “In addition to the profit shifting and illicit financial flows rampant in this sector, facilitated by the broken global tax governance and lack of regulatory and transparency mechanisms, the extra profits being generated by those benefiting from the crises remains untaxed. It is high time to take urgent and rigorous measures in the extractives sector to raise more revenue: stopping the perverse flow of resources from low-income to rich-OECD countries; scrapping tax giveaways, curbing loopholes and tax abuse, as well as immediately introducing tax on extra profits. An inclusive and equitable recovery will only be possible through tax justice.”
Global tax justice calls
The global tax justice movement calls on governments and multilateral institutions to:
Stop illicit financial flows and tax abuses in the extractives sector;
Tax the superprofits of extractives corporations by instituting windfall profit taxes;
Curb tax incentives granted to the extractives industry;
Make extractives companies pay their share in taxes and immediate costs of rehabilitation and rebuilding;
Use taxes for peoples' needs, especially for the needs of communities affected by social and environmental damage; and
Protect and uphold the rights of workers and women affected by mining, including their rights to defend their communities.
18 NOV | 11 am Pretoria
Online event: Resource Backed Loans and Collateralization of Mineral Resources
Organisers: Afrodad and Tax Justice Network Africa
The webinar seeks to pinpoint Africa’s over reliance on mineral resources as the primary commodity export. This overdependence on mineral resources could be a result of IMF’s fiscal consolidation country advice on debt management and how resource-rich countries that are in debt distress are forced to resort to RBLs as a way of financing their debt. Through this online discussion, we seek to analyse whether resource backed loans and collateralisation of mineral resources are a sustainable financing option for African countries and showcase how the current multilateral and international financial system contributes to a vicious cycle of dependence on RBLs.
21 NOV | 2 pm Central European time
Launch event: Tax extractives excess profits NOW!
Organisers: Global Alliance for Tax Justice, Tax and Fiscal Justice Asia, Tax Justice Network Africa, Red de Justicia Fiscal de América Latina y el Caribe
The Global Alliance for Tax Justice (GATJ) and its regional networks kick off the Global Days of Action for Tax Justice in the Extractive Industry 2022 with an online round table, in which panellists from Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe and North America will discuss the main issues each region has been facing with the extractives, as well as what could be achieved through tax justice and, more specifically, excess profits taxes in the sector.
CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS DECRY “FALSE PROMISES” OF DOF FOR TRANSPARENCY IN THE EXTRACTIVES SECTOR
CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS DECRY "FALSE PROMISES" OF DOF FOR TRANSPARENCY IN THE EXTRACTIVES SECTOR
Groups to press for government monitoring of mining companies
Leaders of mining affected communities and civil society groups decried Friday a government official’s statement that the Philippines can ensure transparency in the extractives sector following the country’s withdrawal from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a platform for monitoring mining companies’ performance.
In a meeting to discuss strategies to press for transparency and accountability in the extractives sector the civil society organization (CSO) leaders said the government should halt its “subservience to corporate interests in the mining industry.”
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez had earlier downplayed the withdrawal saying that the Philippine government will “continue to champion better resource and revenue management” in place of the global multi-stakeholder mechanisms of the EITI.
However, CSO leaders were doubtful of the Philippine government’s commitment to champion peoples’ interests vis-a-vis the mining industry, citing the abundant privileges and incentives granted by the government to the sector despite its long history of questionable practices, including environmental degradation, tax and labor abuses.
“It is appalling that the Philippine government refuses to be transparent in policies and in its involvement in the extractive sector, ,” said Lidy Nacpil, Coordinator of the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD. “The extractive industries have proven to be harmful and destructive to the environment and have significantly contributed to the climate crisis.”
Nacpil also said the sector is “a hotbed of illicit financial flows that result in foregone revenues and drain our economies of financial and other resources that should have instead been used for peoples’ needs.”
The Philippine government should prioritize peoples’ needs in the face of multiple crises and put an end to tax and human rights abuses of corporations in the extractives sector, she said.
Dr. Benito Molino, Chairperson of Zambales Lingap Kalikasan (ZALIKA) denounced the latest move of the Department of Finance (DOF) to abscond a platform involving government, mining corporations, and civil society that requires its members to publish financial information according to a standard.
“Withdrawing from the EITI only further shows that this government is a willing puppet of extractive industries, especially mining,” Dr. Molino said. “As the Philippine government plays the role of eager servant to mining corporations, we foresee intensified extraction of natural resources and continuing impunity for corporations’ tax, labor, and other abuses. This will aggravate the destruction of areas for food production and will worsen our current food and environmental crises.”
Dr. Molino is a veteran of a long battle mounted by communities in Sta. Cruz Zambales, calling on the Philippine government to sanction mining corporations for the irreversible degradation of agricultural lands and fisheries in the area.
In 2017, four of these mining corporations were ordered to close as a result of the government's investigation of their violations of environmental laws. However, these orders were overturned in 2019.
The companies investigated by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources were BenguetCorp Nickel Mines Inc., Zambales Diversified Metals Corporation, LNL Archipelago Minerals Incorporated, Eramen Minerals Inc.
More recently, the lifting of Executive Order 79 imposing a moratorium on the approval of new licenses for mining corporations “guaranteed a new lease on life for mining corporations in Zambales,” Dr Molino said.
Dominguez’s pronouncement to champion transparency in the extractives sector offers nothing more than “false promises,” according to Fara Diva Gamalo, Coordinator of women’s organization Oriang in Eastern Visayas. “Public officials like Dominguez who have vested interests in protecting profits of mining corporations hold no moral high ground to institute policies strengthening accountability in the extractives sector,” Gamalo stated.
“For as long as the DOF is hostage to corporate interests in the extractives sector, the demands of local communities to exact accountability from mining corporations will remain unheeded,” Gamalo said.
At the forefront of the anti-mining struggles in Eastern Visayas, Gamalo has stood witness to the widespread impunity in human rights violations committed against leaders of local communities who demand simply for the government to protect their homes and livelihoods by prohibiting the destructive operation of mining corporations.
Meanwhile, in a message sent to Philippine-based CSOs, Financial Transparency Coalition (FTC) Executive Director Matti Kohonen said the Philippine government’s recent withdrawal from the EITI is “a serious step back for transparency in the extractive sector, including financial transparency on ownership and taxes paid in the sector.”
The FTC is a global network of organizations working to help curb illicit financial flows with members in Europe, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia, and North America.
Kohonen emphasized the need to maintain public registries of beneficial owners in extractive companies, and to regularly update and expand it to include fisheries and forestry.
A public beneficial ownership (BO) registry provides access to information on companies’ beneficial owners, the individuals who ultimately own, control or benefit from the companies’ profits. CSO leaders said that such registries can be important tools in fighting tax abuse and corruption and can aid in recovering foregone revenues from profits of mining corporations stored in offshore accounts.
The CSO leaders cited the 2021 State of Tax Justice Report saying untaxed wealth is but a fraction of the PhP 26 trillion lost to tax abuses globally of wealthy individuals and corporations. Aggressive and systematic tax avoidance practiced by extractive companies through transfer pricing and trade misinvoicing result in massive tax losses for the Philippines, they pointed out.
They said government inaction to address these issues prompted the tax justice movement to mount protests at the DOF in November last year, demanding public investigations into the tax and labor abuses of mining corporations exposed in the Pandora Papers. The prevalence of profit-shifting and tax avoidance in the extractives sector, whose profits prosper amidst financial secrecy, also points to the weakness of global standards of financial transparency and lack of public access to beneficial ownership information.
The longstanding demands by civil society for transparency and accountability are foregrounded by a history of unjust practices, including tax abuses and massive illicit financial flows (IFFs) in the Philippine extractives sector. These IFFs are jointly enabled by a domestic fiscal regime that encourages tax avoidance through decades-long tax incentives to mining corporations and a global tax architecture that continues to permit profit-shifting to low-tax jurisdictions. The Pandora Papers expose in 2021 implicated political and business elites across the world, including Philippines, in shady but systematic practices to hide wealth in offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes.
“It is imperative to transform global and domestic tax rules, to effectively curb IFFs and end the privileged status enjoyed by mining companies because of the generous tax and other fiscal incentives granted by many governments in Asia, including the Philippines,” Nacpil said. “Tax abuses by corporations and wealthy individuals and other types of IFFs significantly drain tax revenues and public resources urgently needed to fund public services.”
APMDD holds forum on “Women’s Voices for Tax Justice: Women, Mining and Climate”
As part of the Global Days of Action for Tax Justice for Women’s Rights, APMDD and TAFJA held an online forum on 24 March 2022 to listen to women’s voices for tax justice and explore how mining and illicit financial flows impact on women’s rights and resilience in the face of an alarming climate crisis.
APMDD coordinator, Lidy Nacpil, called mining, climate, and illicit financial flows a ”triple whammy on women”. She said most of the countries of the South have extractivist economies as a legacy of the colonial past.
“The continuous extraction affects local communities where mines operate with pollution and extraction of resources during the course of mining… But certain types of extraction affect even far away communities. That is in the impact on climate, especially the continues extraction, production and consumption of fossil fuels which is responsible for 75 percent of global greenhouse emissions that has triggered and is escalating global warming and climate change.”
She emphasized that fighting for tax justice in extractives is not an easy fix. “Extraction has to be done in ways that economies will benefit but the environment is not destroyed. We need to stop the current tax incentives given to mining companies which encourage them. We need to punish, penalize, drive away these foreign mining companies, who do not only abuse countries’ environments, but their own workers,” she said.
“The climate crisis tells us we cannot take too long to take action. Policy changes are urgent. We need to work hard and fast,” Nacpil said, stressing the importance of women “who won’t stop at nothing to protect their children” in the fight.
Hoang Phuong Thao of Action Aid Vietnam noted the need to “unpack the reality of how inequality has increased significantly through the multiple crises that we have gone though in the past few years, and especially the crises of climate change and COVID -- and the reality that governments are trading off citizen’s rights for the benefit and profit of corporates."
“In the race to the bottom, ASEAN countries are trying to reduce corporate income tax to attract investments, with the hope that the trickle-down effect will turn into employment. But in fact our people -- especially our women, our women workers -- are suffering from loss of lands and livelihoods because of waters rising, suffering being pushed out of the labor market, becoming informal workers, becoming workers that have no protection,” she said.
Perspectives of women in mining-affected communities and gendered impacts of extractivist activities were discussed by Fara Diva Gamalo of the Freedom from Debt Coalition-Philippines and Srishty Anand of Oxfam-India. Gamolo spoke of a community in Leyte province where hundreds of rice fields have been destroyed by Chinese mining company, extracting black sand and shipping it out to China, since 2010. “Not only livelihoods have been destroyed, but also fresh water sources are depleting because of the mining,” she said.
Illicit financial flows in the extractives sector and impacts on women was discussed by Meliana Lumbantorua, a program manager of Published What You Pay Indonesia. “For Indonesia, tax is a dominant revenue source, but mining corporations have been using loopholes in tax laws for tax avoidance,” she said.
“The current crises have been especially hard on women. We have to push those ‘status quo-ists’, the financial profiteers and profit shifters, those who listen only to the rich, and those fossilized defenders of fossil fuels, to move towards cleaner, greener, more sustainable alternatives and system change,” said Vidya Dinker of the India Social Action Forum.
“We honor women who continue to lead the fight against mining and many fights for tax and gender justice, for climate justice. Women who, despite being marginalised from decision making in all spheres of life, including on financial matters, demand transparency, accountability and inclusiveness in financial systems, and are also in the frontlines of crafting transformative economic visions beyond extractivist economies,” Jeannie Manipon, APMDD Development Finance program manager, said at the conclusion of the forum.
See video of the forum here
MANILA, 26 November 2021- Tax justice and human rights activists today trooped to the Department of Finance to protest the undue tax privileges given to and the tax abuses of mining corporations.
“Are you truly Santa?” they sang to the tune of “Santa Clause is Coming to Town,” in reference to the privileges given by government to mining corporations on the pretext that mining contributes significantly to the economy and the communities where they operate. In April, the Duterte government lifted a 9-year ban on issuing new mining licenses and rationalized incentives to the extractive industry.
Luke Espiritu, president of the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), said the Department of Finance (DOF) should be working toward progressive taxation and stop championing elite and corporate interests.
“While the world is still coming to terms with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the urgent challenge of economic recovery, it has been “business as usual” for the extractive industry’ and some of its shady operations. Mining corporations are raking in huge profits even under COVID-19 restrictions on most other economic activities,” he said.
BMP was among groups who held a rally in front of the Bureau of Internal Revenue against tax abuses of mining corporations on November 19. They put the spotlight on a corporation wholly owned by APEX Mining, one the most profitable companies in the Philippines, that has been exposed for profit shifting in the Pandora Papers, the large-scale investigation conducted and published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists through a team of journalists from 150 news outlets in 117 countries. The Pandora Papers mentioned several prominent Filipino names and families.
“Workers are squeezed dry, work in very bad conditions for very minimum wages, but the government only watches out for business. Government only provides corporations with even more relief from paying direct taxes. This effectively reduces potential revenues for public coffers – precious resources needed especially at this time of pandemic and economic crisis,” Espiritu said.
“Baliw. (Mad.) This government is mad in charging mining corporations very low taxes and giving them free rein with our gold, nickel, and copper,” Espiritu said. He lamented that mining corporations are even allowed by government to form their own private armies.
Sanlakas secretary general Atty. Aaron Pedrosa noted that the extractive sector is booming, For the first half of 2021 alone Nickel Asia earned ₱2.73 billion, a 579% jump from the same period last year; Atlas Mining gained a net income of ₱1.9 billion; and, Semirara Mining almost tripled its net income to ₱6.28 billion from ₱2.2 billion last year.
“Mining is touted to be a driver of our economic recovery but far from it, we are only seeing its recovery as mining companies rake in super profits,” he said, adding that the government is complicit in fueling the setup as “it is overly generous to business, providing guarantees, fiscal and non-fiscal incentives for decades."
Incentives include, under FTAA (Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement), incentive for Income Tax-Carry Forward of Losses; incentive for Income Tax-Accelerated Depreciation; Amortization of Exploration and Development Expenses; and, Incentives for Expansions and Modifications to Existing Facilities and for Development of New Mineral Resources.
He added that the DOF has engineered a series of tax reforms under the guise of ‘rationalizing corporate tax incentives’ that escalates the reduction of corporate income tax rates. “This follows the global trend of ‘racing to the bottom’ of minimum corporate tax rates to provide the most profitable business environment for corporations. By DOF’s own admittance, for the first time in Philippines’ recent history, it has promoted a revenue-eroding tax reform in the CREATE law,” he said.
Flora Santos, president of Oriang, castigated Dominguez’s recent statement rejecting the legislative proposal for a wealth tax. “Our people are going hungry, but this government continues to rely on regressive taxation. For poor people, this means high prices for some of their most basic necessities. We pay VAT for almost everything we consume but get no services from this government, not even for the most essential needs for health care and housing.”
Meanwhile, Lidy Nacpil, coordinator of the Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD), expounded on the Global Days of Action on Tax Justice in the Extractive Industry in a virtual press briefing that followed the rally. “This is part of the effort globally led by many groups and movements to expose the abuses of multinational companies, particularly mining companies, and counting among the abuses is not just abuse of labor, abuse of the environment, but also abuse of taxes,” explained Lidy Nacpil, coordinator of APMDD.
“We know that mining companies are earning trillions of dollars worldwide and most mining companies are multinationals operating in many countries. One of the ways that they ensure huge profits is to avoid and evade taxes and to court governments to provide tax incentives for them based on a myth on the benefits of their operations. It is a myth because it has been proven that mining does not really add to the real economic benefit for people and communities in our countries,” she added.
The Global Alliance for Tax Justice (GATJ) called for Global Days of Action for Tax Justice in the Extractive Industry on 25-26 November noting that “While the world grapples with the continuing impacts of the pandemic and the urgent challenge of economic rebuilding, it is ‘business as usual’ for the extractive industry. Considered an essential service in many parts of the world, its operations have been exempt from lockdown and other restrictions. It continues to benefit from tax incentives regimes, accumulating wealth and profit for conglomerates and elite countries where they are registered. From the Swiss leaks to the Paradise Papers, and the most recent expose, the Pandora Papers, the extractive industry has been linked to the layers of financial secrecy that produce illicit financial flows and the web of tax havens that enable massive profit shifting and systematic tax avoidance.”
To the tune of Sta Claus Is Coming To Town, Philippine tax justice groups denounced mining corporations singing “Are You Really the Santa Claus They Say You Are?” in a rally in front of the Bureau of Internal Revenue last November 19.
♫ A bearer of gifts, they say, you are
But what a pittance, they turn out to be ♪
Are you really, the Santa Claus they say...
The campaign for tax justice in the extractive industry in the country is part of an economic justice agenda that includes the call to make taxes work for people and the planet.
Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino