Villanueva hits out at greed of coal oligarchs
Senator Joel Villanueva has blasted the power and greed of the country’s largest coal producer after uncovering last minute changes in the tax reform bill involving exemptions of domestic coal.
“Mr. President, yesterday, we made a shocking discovery as we were preparing to ratify the bicameral committee report on the TRAIN bill. This act of deletion displayed the hand of the industry with intentions as dark as the dirtiest of all fossil fuels,” said Villanueva, vice chairman of the Senate committee on ways and means.
Villanueva said the bicameral committee resolved to remove the tax exemptions on locally produced coal but the House of Representatives inserted a provision retaining such incentives for local coal manufacturers.
He said Semirara Mining Corp.,which is led by the Consunji family, has been enjoying billions of pesos in duty and tax breaks since 1976, resulting in foregone revenues for the government.
With the retention of tax exemptions on local coal, the government stands to lose about P5 billion based on computations made by the Department of Finance.
Under Presidential Decree 972, Semirara is exempted from paying national and local taxes and fees. The only national tax it is required to pay under the law is the corporate income tax. Apart from this, it enjoys income tax holiday from the Board of Investments.
“With this tax holiday, the company paid less income tax than it is required under the tax code, and was able to save P10.7 billion pesos in income tax expense over the last five years,” Villanueva said.
“Mr. President, kung tutuusin, halos sinasagot ng publiko lahat ng gastusin ng kumpanyang ito – mula sweldo ng mga manggagawa, bayad sa kuryente at tubig, maging bonuses ng mga board members nila at ilan sa kanilang mga bayarin sa gobyerno,” Villanueva said.
“In fact, even their expenses on corporate income tax – the only tax they are required to pay had they not availed the income tax holiday- may also be deducted from the coal revenues as part of their 90% recoverable costs,” he added.
Villanueva further explained that from the 10% of what is left from the coal revenues after their expenses are deducted, Semirara is further entitled to a so-called three percent special allowance, and a four percent basic fee.
“We, the inherent owners of the natural resources which this company exploits, are left with a share as small as three after we generously covered their expenses and assured profits. Sa liit ng nakukuha natin, para na ho tayong nanlilimos ng parte natin sa sarili nating likas-yaman,” Villanueva said.
“With this, the company practically stands as the monopoly on local coal in the country. I urge the Senate to review, scrutinize, and rationalize all the incentives granted to the local mining industry to put an end to this unthinkable magnitude of greed,” Villanueva said.
Semirara accounts for more than 95 percent of the country’s total coal production.
“The company also has exclusive contract to operate in Semirara Island in Caluya, Antique, where almost one quarter of the country’s mineable reserves is located. The company has enjoyed the exclusive contract for more than four decades, and is set to continue its exclusive operation in the island in the next three (3) decades ahead,” Villanueva said.