Nickel mines continue to operate, clergy saysadmin
BUTUAN CITY – Tubay Parish priest Fr. Jenor Luis and the coalition against Tubay Mines said three mining firms in Barangay La Fraternidad, Tubay, Agusan del Norte continue to operate despite an order from Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes.
“You have to see for yourself since we are not allowed to pass to their roads anymore,” Luis said.
“Despite the order of Secretary Reyes, the three firms S.R. Metals Inc., San R Construction, and Galeo Equipment continued to operate. We knew it because we have persons monitoring them,” he said.
A check at the area proved futile since the heavily guarded mining premises are off limits to the public.
A check with DENR Caraga Regional Executive Director Benjamen Tumaliuan through text messages confirmed that Secretary Reyes had issued the cease and desist order dated November 24.
“But it is the Environment Management Bureau (EMB) and the Bureau of Mines and Geo-Sciences (MGB) who are implementing it because it is within their jurisdictional power,” Tumaliuan said.
Attempts to contact the mobile phones of EMB Regional Director Rey Villafuerte and MGB Caraga Regional Director Alilio Ensomo proved futile.
In an earlier interview, former Caloocan Representative Edgar Erice, president of S.R. Metals Inc., claimed they will appeal the cease and desist order of Secretary Reyes.
“As far as we are concerned, we have not violated any environmental laws, we operate above board and because of that we will continue our operations pending our appeal”, Erice said.
Erice claimed the Tubay Mining issue had been muddled by political fighting between the Amantes and Plazas, the two political clans dominating the political landscape of the Agusan provinces and Butuan City.
“We operate responsibly and the best so far in local mining industry, we hope that this mining issue will not be politicized as we are paying taxes due to government,” Erice said.
Erice revealed to newsmen that many politicians are asking concessions from him to stop opposition against the nickel mines.
But anti-mining advocates headed by the Roman Catholic Church in Tubay who formed into a coalition claimed they are opposing the Tubay mines because of the danger it posed to environment and people as well.
Tubay local officials headed by Mayor Fidel Garcia Jr. questioned this, saying barangay residents of La Fraternidad who are directly affected with the mining operations are not complaining.
Earlier, investigations made by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) and the multi-partite monitoring committee claimed there were no violations so far.
But in the November 24 cease and desist order, Secretary Reyes said the three firms violated excesses in capital to labor ratio, over capitalization and over stock of nickel ores, violations of the Small Scale Mining Law.
“And therefore ECCs issued by the Environment Management Bureau were null and void including all other permits issued” the cease and desist order signed by DENR Secretary Angelo Reyes said.
The Agusan del Norte Provincial Mining and Regulatory Board upon recommendation and endorsement of Governor Earlpe John Amante issued the Small Scale Mining Permits to the three firms.
Erice admitted it was former Ramos Executive Secretary and Agusan del Norte Representative Edilmiro Amante who invited him to invest in mining in Agusan del Norte particularly in Tubay.
The political Plaza clan, the closest rivals of the Amantes claimed that mining operations will help finance the Amante’ election bid in the May 2007 elections.