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Philippine province and Australian mining firm in tax row.

Manila/Northern Luzon: Environment Secretary Joselito Atienza has asked a governor, several provincial officials, and protesting villagers to take away the barricade that they erected on a road leading to the facilities of a gold-copper mining firm which was accused of not paying taxes to the local government unit in northern Luzon.

"The $320 million project of Oceana Gold, an Australian mining firm in the Caraballo mountain range near the town of Kasibu, in Nueva Vizcaya province cannot be delayed," warned Atienza.

Nueva Vizcaya governor Luisa Cuaresma complained that Oceana Gold has refused to pay quarry and other back taxes. Supported by local government officials, the Catholic Church, and anti-mining groups, Cuaresma led in the erection of a barricade on a small road leading to the mining facilities.

"They are committing an illegal act," the environment secretary said sternly, adding, "the country's mining law is very clear in saying that earth moving and other development projects undertaken by a mining firm are exempted from taxes."

"The mining firm does not owe the Nueva Vizcaya local government unit quarry and other back taxes because there should have been no such tax at all," explained Atienza.

"First of all, Oceana Gold is not in the quarrying business. They are now putting up their processing plant and have in fact bidded out the project to several bidders who will do the construction and development of the plant site," Atienza said.

Warning the protesters, Atienza said, "If you stop [the project] ... everybody loses: the province of Nueva Vizcaya loses, the country will lose, the investor will lose."

The protesters argued that local government units can impose taxes on quarries and other development projects which should be paid by those who are working for Oceana Gold.

With input from Artemio Dumlao, Correspondent

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Jun 22, 2008
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