Thursday, October 2, 2008

Philippine Mining Monopoly

             In the waning years of Martial Law, a joke circulated about a former First Lady being in the mining business. It was told that she went to a place where business was thriving and casually declared: "this is mine, this mine, etc."

             The joke of course generated no small amount of laughter. But the painful reality is that, to paraphrase a popular song in the 70s, the joke was on us. It was good for a few laughs, but somebody else was laughing all the way to the bank.

             A controversy over the mining monopoly in Bohol brought back memories of that joke although it is clear this one is no laughing matter. For who knows how long, a single individual laid claim to nearly all the mining activities in the province.

             This culminated in a recent raid in a northern town which generated angry responses from top provincial officials. No less than a government agency carried out the raid at the instance of the claimant obviously against public interest.

             If something good can come out of it, it is the crafting of a mining ordinance that should pave the way for the tilting of the balance in favor of common interest.

             Of course, it is too early to tell if the proposed ordinance would indeed be able to accomplish that. Given the intervening interests, there is always the possibility that it would not serve the purpose for which it was intended.

             Common good is fodder for motherhood statements. Sadly however, far too often it is sacrificed at the altar of selfish interest. Human nature simply cannot resist the lure of raking in obscene profit when the opportunity presents itself.

             A case in point is the impending bidding of the Dampas diesel plant. No matter how one looks at it, the sale when consummated will bring in huge profit to the winning bidder.

             In the process however, it will be the people who will be the ultimate loser. For all its faults, the National Power Corporation has done the people of Bohol a great service by subsidizing power rates until this time.

             Once the plant is privately operated however, the subsidy will be discontinued. On top of that, the plant owners will be on the lookout for profit. It will be a race to the top for power rates in Bohol .

             And yet, few people are taking notice. The ones we have entrusted to look after our interests are looking elsewhere. In this business, it is quid pro quo.

             The tragedy is that while people have made complaining and whining an art, few people are inclined to take steps to solve the problem. That's action for you.

             That leaves people in the mining industry all the leeway that they need. They can help themselves to the loot. Nobody cares anyway.  - Editorial, Bohol Sunday Post

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