Sen. Bongbong vows protection for Mindanao mining sector in substitute BBL

Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. , Chairman of the Committee on Local Government today assured in Mindanao, particularly mining engineers and workers, that their interests will be protected in the substitute bill he is preparing in lieu of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law.

In a speech before the 21st Annual Symposium of the Mindanao Mining Engineers Association held at the Waterfront Insular Hotel in Davao City, Marcos noted that under the draft bill, the wider powers granted to the Bangsamoro government could have adverse impacts on the mining sector.

“The mining sector of Mindanao, especially the mining engineers of Mindanao, can be assured that your humble public servant is doing everything to make sure that everyone and all sectors of society are heard and are informed, so that their interests are properly covered and protected,” Sen. Bongbong said.

Earlier, Sen. Bongbong said he would prepare a substitute bill to address not only the legal issues raised against the draft BBL but also to address the concerns of major stakeholders in Mindanao.

Speaking before the association of mining engineers, the Senator pointed out that the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao that the Bangsamoro government intends to replace already enjoys powers over exploration, development and utilization of natural resources within its ARMM territory, save for “strategic minerals”, such as fossil fuels and uranium.

However, such powers are must adhere to the Constitution and provisions of existing laws, such as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 (RA 7942) and the People’s Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991 (RA 7076), among others.

Sen. Bongbong said the proposed powers of Bangsamoro government over natural resources within its jurisdiction are wider and more extensive which means that they can, for example, formulate their own “policies on mining and other extractive industries”.

Furthermore, he noted that the provision in the ARMM law ensuring compliance with the constitution and exiting laws is omitted under the draft BBL.

According to the Senator, these features lead to the apprehension that, in the future, mining legislation and policy, as well as regulation of the mining industry in the Bangsamoro territory, could be substantially different or at a disconnect with regulations of the national government.

As provided for under the draft BBL, Sen. Bongbong said Bangsamoro legislature can enact laws that could effectively amend, render inapplicable or even entirely supplant important and relevant mining laws such as the Mining Act and the People’s Small-Scale Mining Act.

“While these are all but speculation, they are nonetheless plausible scenarios owing to the lack of mechanisms that guarantee vertical alignment of policies with the national government, and ensure safeguards for consistency with the Constitution and existing laws,” he clarified.

Likewise, he also said even the manpower and the human resources of the industry also stand to be affected by the draft BBL which gives the Bangsamoro government exclusive control over “labor, employment and occupation” within its area of jurisdiction.

As a result, Sen. Bongbong said the Bangsamoro government could have a separate Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) that will enforce labor laws, and a separate National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) that will adjudicate the labor claims of employees, as well as its own Professional Regulatory Commission.

Sen. Bongbong said there was no institutional framework and mechanisms under the draft BBL that would ensure the full range of protection of labor and employment rights that even the DOLE had suggested amendments to address these deficiencies.

The Senator also said there are no mechanisms in the draft BBL to guarantee the highest possible standards for the ethical practice of professions and for admission thereto, such as the important profession of mining engineers.

These flaws of BBL, according to the senator, have triggered concerns not only among the key players in the mining sector but also among concerned public servants.

Sen. Bongbong said this is the reason why he will buckle down to work during the one-and-half-month-long Senate recess to craft the best possible version of BBL that his committee can present to the Senate and ultimately for ratification of the people.

“This, I firmly hope and believe, is my humble contribution not only to successfully ending our country’s continued quest for that seemingly elusive and enigmatic formula for peace, justice and development in Muslim Mindanao, but also to the strengthening of our integrity and unity as one Filipino nation,” Sen. Bongbong said.

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