MGB wants four Bulacan mining permits cancelled

MGB wants four Bulacan mining permits cancelled

The Region 3 office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has recommended to Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Angelo Reyes the cancellation of four small-scale mining permits issued by Bulacan Gov. Josefina de la Cruz in Doã±a Remedios Trinidad town.

This, as MGB-Region 3 engineers discovered that the areas covered by the four mining permits were within the boundary of the Angat watershed, which supplies water to Metro Manila.

Based on the documents attached to its five-page investigation report, the MGB regional office said De la Cruz issued the small-scale mining permits to a certain Gerardo Cruz, Eduardo Mercado, Benedicto Cruz, and Lucila Valdez, all on Aug. 10, 2005. The permits will reportedly expire on Aug. 9 this year.

De la Cruz, according to the MGB, issued the small-scale mining permits without the recommendation of the agency’s previous regional director and the incumbent chairman of the provincial mining regulatory board.

Further, the MGB-Region 3, in a report prepared by senior science research specialist Nixon Dalapus and senior environmental management specialist Edgardo Zapata, said the Bulacan provincial government also issued the corresponding environmental compliance certificates (ECCs) for the mining permits.

MGB director Horacio Ramos said the ECC issuances by the provincial government were illegal since the authority to issue such clearances solely lies with the environment and natural resources secretary.

“The mining permits issued are within the Angat watershed reservation that is closed to mining applications pursuant to Section 19 of Republic Act 7942 (Mining Act),” said lawyer Anselmo Abungan, newly designated MGB-Region 3 director.

“The mining permits were also issued without the required ECCs from the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB)-Region 3 as well the corresponding environmental protection and enhancement program,” he added.

Abungan said this explains why his office is recommending the cancellation of the small-scale mining permits “without prejudice to the rehabilitation and cleanup of the affected areas, and the penalties and liabilities of the operator/permit holders under existing laws, rules and regulations.”

During an ocular inspection of one of the small-scale mining sites the other day, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) found it abandoned.

But in its report, the MGB-Region 3 said mine wastes were left on the slopes and near creeks and that the downstream Sapang Bakal was “heavily silted.”

The DENR expressed fear that the silt from erodable mining materials might be carried downstream into channels and tributaries.

The EMB-Region 3 has collected water samples for laboratory analysis.

Ramos cited what he described as the unsystematic procedure apparently used by the small-scale mining operator in extracting iron ore in Barangay Camachin in Doã±a Remedios Trinidad town.

“This should be rehabilitated by the operator… There was an apparent wanton cutting of trees here; areas were already denuded… The activities done here pose a threat to the Angat watershed and nearby creeks that lead to the Biak-na-Bato,” Ramos said.

According to community environment and natural resources officer Meliton Vicente Jr., the permit holders abandoned their mining sites some two months ago when the Army’s 7th Infantry Division under Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan launched anti-insurgency operations in Bulacan.

Vicente said the mining operations had stopped since then and that the DENR discovered them last July 17.

The DENR initially launched an investigation into reports of itchiness being suffered by residents, foul smell, and environmental degradation blamed on the mining activities in Barangay Camachin.

Rehabilitating the five-hectare mining site, according to Vicente, would cost at least P1 million a year.

He added that at least 800 trees of dipterocarp species have been lost in the area due to the mining operator’s unsystematic operation.

The DENR said it is looking into possible violations of forestry laws by the holders of the small-scale mining permits due to the denudation of the mountain.

Last July 12, Reyes suspended the quarry operations of Rosemoor Mining and Development Corp. in the historical Biak-na-Bato due to supposed violations of its mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA).

Reyes also cancelled five quarry permits “illegally issued” by the Bulacan provincial government to certain individuals.

He similarly cancelled 14 pending applications for quarry permits in areas located within the Biak-na-Bato’s mineral reserve, watershed forest reserve, and forest reserve.

Bulacan officials, however, said the cancelled quarry permits had long expired, some of them issued by De la Cruz’s predecessor.

Over the weekend, De la Cruz called on the Senate to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation into the Biak-na-Bato controversy.

In a statement, the provincial government scored the DENR’s “fault-finding escapade” which it said is aimed at misleading the public and creating a smokescreen to hide the real issues in the controversial marble quarrying of Rosemoor in the Biak-na-Bato National Park.

It challenged Reyes to present to the public the documents submitted by Rosemoor which became the basis for its MPSA.

“Instead of doing squid tactics and muddling the issues, Secretary Reyes should review policies, regulations and provisions of the Local Government Code so he could properly address the hazards now threatening Biak-na-Bato,” De la Cruz said.

The provincial government accused Reyes of committing another misrepresentation regarding eight small-scale mining permits which it said were suspended two weeks ago.

Four of the permits were the ones the MGB-Region 3 wants cancelled. As identified by provincial environment and natural resources officer Ricardo Medina Jr., the other permit holders were Wilson Matienzo, Mercyjoy Gelladuga, Ofelia Malabago and Christian Domingo.

“For the record, the eight suspended permits were operating in the forest land area in Barangay Camachin, Doã±a Remedios Trinidad which is outside Biak-na-Bato, contrary to the misrepresentation made by the DENR that (they were) operating in the watershed area of the historical site,” the provincial government said.

Citing records of the provincial environment and natural resources office, it said the mining permits were deliberated upon and validated by the provincial mining regulatory board.

It added that it only issued the ECCs upon the issuance of clearances by the MGB and the community environment and natural resources office.

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