By KYLE EDWARD FRANCISCO
VIGAN City, ILocos Sur — Defend Ilocos Against Mining Plunder (DEFEND Ilocos) assailed the inaction of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) against illegal sand and gravel (ISAG) and mineral processing operations for magnetite sand in Ilocos Sur, specifically in the towns of Caoayan, Sta. Catalina, San Vicente and Sta. Cruz.
“We submitted a formal complaint with the necessary documents and photographs to prove the existence of illegal blacksand extraction in the province which the people have been complaining about since 2009, yet for almost a month now, MGB has not lifted a finger to conduct an investigation on the matter,” says Donna Rabang Peta, Convener of DEFEND Ilocos.
Documents and photographs provided by DEFEND Ilocos show that magnetite processing facilities are installed in San Sebatian, San Vicente; Caparacadan, Caoayan; and Tamorong, Sta. Catalina while active magnetite sand extraction is taking place in San Vicente and Caoayan. Records obtained from the MGB and the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Management Office (PENRMO) does not register any permit holder for ISAG and mineral processing in the said areas.
“Now or even earlier should have been the best time to conduct on-site inquiry and inspection as our volunteers have been reporting that a significant amount of magnetite concentrates are stockpiled in the area. We are concerned that the operators will be able to dispose of the processed minerals, a very important evidence of their illegal activity,” Peta said.
Widespread Peoples’ Opposition
Before the 2010 elections, a series of protest actions were conducted in Sta. Catalina, San Vicente and Vigan City to protest onshore and offshore blacksand mining. A number of local governments also passed resolutions expressing their opposition to all applications for magnetite mining. These were followed by the Provincial Board who passed a resolution on September 28, 2010 calling for the cancelation of the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) awarded to Altamina Exploration and Resources (Altamina).
In February 2012, church and concerned citizens in Sta. Catalina held a protest action against magnetite mining taking place in their town and in the adjacent town of San Vicente. They blame this mining for the rapid coastal erosion which their coastal barangays are said to be suffering.
A “Petition for the Writ of Kalikasan” was filed by DEFEND Ilocos on May 4, 2012 against Altamina, with prayers for a Temporary Environmental Protection Order (TEPO) and cancellation of all offshore and onshore magnetite mining permits and applications. The Supreme Court granted the Writ and remanded the case to the Court of Appeals and is now waiting for judgment after the hearing, which started on July 9 and ended on September 11.
The City of Vigan, likewise, protested in August the installation of mining facility and equipment owned by Wellresources, Inc. in Caparacadan, Caoayan. City officials cited that while the area is indeed part of Caoayan, it is nearer to communities within the jurisdiction of Vigan that will immediately be affected by the operation.
“Non-government organizations and private individuals are taking the lead against the destructive operations and monitoring the blatant violations of these mining operators, while MGB sits idly and pays lip service of their supposed campaign against destructive and illegal mining operations’, laments Finela Mejia, of Save the Abra River Movement (STARM).
Politicians Backing Blacksand Extraction
In an earlier statement, DEFEND Ilocos said Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson has been very vocal about his support for magnetite sand mining in the province. He is even personally convincing the barangay officials of the supposed economic benefits that can be derived from these mining operations.
“Definitely politicians are coddling the operators of these companies because it would have been impossible to conceal such large operation and machinery from the concerned authorities, and since they don’t have the proper documents to conduct such operation, the local government units concerned should have ordered them to cease their operations,” explains Peta.
On the other hand, BAYAN MUNA Ilocos on a statement stressed that candidates on the coming elections should have a clear stand and program on the issue of mining.
“In as much as an overwhelming majority of the people of Ilocos are against mining, and previous magnetite sand extraction operations have wreaked irreparable damages to our coastal areas, candidates who are willing to commit to put an end to these destructive operations should be supported and those who are supporting large-scale and destructive mining should be exposed and denied our precious votes,” the statement said. Reposted by