Mining the Stock Market

Buencamino does political commentary for Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in Today newspaper, March 1, 2005 edition, page 11.

In a nation run by swine, all pigs are upward-mobile and the rest of us
are fucked until we can put our acts together: Not necessarily to Win, but mainly to keep from Losing Completely. -Hunter S. Thompson

Benjamin Philip G. Romualdez, president of the Chamber of Mines of the
Philippines, went to market. He delivered a briefing on the revitalization of the once-moribund mining industry. He told the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) about the billions of dollars mining will attract.

He said, “We are still in the process of quantifying the value of these
projects, but if you add everything together it could go over 10 billion dollars.”  It’s not clear whether the sum represents investments, but if it does, then miners are going to be a very happy bunch.

Mrs Arroyo’s economic witchdoctor, Romulo Neri, claims the mineral
wealth of the Philippines is $840 billion. Imagine $10 billiion in, $840 billion out. It’s more than enough to make anyone squeal with joy.

BPG Romualdez’s briefing was meant to excite the PSE about the prospect
of listing mining companies in the stock exchange. He said, “We are certain that this interest will go a long way in establishing excellent investment opportunities for the country and the revitalization of the mining industry, which augurs well for our stock market.”  In other words, the stock market can and should be mined.

BPG Romualdez wants the PSE to relax its listing rules so that mining companies with absolutely no local track record of profitability can
sell shares to the public. He said, “We want PSE to look into the international standards for mining investments. The application of international standards as in Australia and Canada in the domestic setting will give investors assurance that a certain company has a good track record.

After all, the whole purpose of PSE is for the capital market—to get investors from a broad range of the economic spectrum that will be interested in investing in a company because they have projects that may be worthwhile.” Or worthless. But the investor will not know until it’s too late because the PSE rule requiring a three-year record of profitability prior to listing will be waived.

The PSE was salivating by the end of BPG Romualdez’s presentation. To its credit, it was able to issue the following statement without drooling. They said, “We will gladly study the request. In any event, the three-year profitability rule applies only if the market capitalization of listing applicant is less than 500 million. This should not be a problem for companies intending to engage in large-scale mining operations,” as visions of IPOs and billions in
mouth-watering hot money floated before their eyes.

Without a three-year profitability rule and a mere 10 million dollars on paper to qualify for listing, anybody with the right connections and a good advertising campaign can go into mining without having to dig for minerals because mining the stock market will be just as profitable. In addition, a booming, IPO market will come in handy when the time comes for the usual suspects to explain sudden and unexplainable increases in their net worth. All the little pigs will learn to say “margin accounts”  instead of  “oink,oink” when that time comes.

I wonder if it’s too much to suggest to members of the Supreme Court,
the occupant of Malacanang and her appointees, including first-degree relatives and in-laws, to sign a pledge, under the pain of
imprisonment, that they will not participate in any way whatsoever in the mining industry or in the trading and ownership of shares of stock in any mining firm. Will they receive this as a positive idea to erase any doubts regarding motives for allowing foreigners to own our mineral resources or would they dismiss it as just another mean-spirited attempt to kick over the trough? Will it be hear,hear or oink, oink?

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