By ALDWIN QUITASOL
VIGAN CITY — The Church expressed hope that Ilocos Sur’s provincial governor Ryan Luis V. Singson will give priority to saving the natural resources of the province from further plunder.
Sr. Lilian Carranza, director of the Social Action Center (SAC) of the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia, sent a letter of appeal to the office of the governor July 4.
According to Carranza, despite the January 22 cease and desist order (CDO) by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Region 1 against the mining activities, the mining companies did not heed the said order and instead continued with their operations. She stated that the companies intensified their onshore and offshore mining operations while the local government of the municipalities affected by the mining activities remained inactive.
Carranza said that the local government of Caoayan town even led the people to plant trees along the shores of Caparacadan village where the Chinese-owned Well Resource Mining Inc. operates but did not dare to enforce the CDO. She also condemned the inaction of the mayors of the municipalities of Sta. Catalina and San Vicente.
She also reported to the governor that there is no action on the part of the Philippine National Police and other law enforcement agencies as well as local government officials even if there is an order of the MGB ordering the confiscation of the extracted magnetite.
In the letter, SAC requested the governor to act on the matter. They urge the confiscation orders be implemented on all quarry sites where accumulated magnetite ores are located and the stockpiles to be impounded for proper dispositions. The church also asked that a moratorium be declared on all mining activities in the province at the soonest and any violator should be prosecuted.
Carranza said they are requesting for a thorough investigation as to the extent of damage caused by the illegal mining operations and also on the erring officials and especially the foreigners who own the mining companies. She said they urge the dismantling and impounding of the equipment, machines and facilities of the companies and be used as evidence against the violators.
The church also urged the seizure of foreign vessels engaged in the offshore mining activities and that criminal cases be filed against the owners. It also requested that a policy for the protection of the environment be formulated to involve all sectors in partnership with the provincial government.
In a dialogue with MGB Region 1, Monsignor Sammy Rosimo of the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia told Carlos A. Tayag, MGB regional director, that the people are now impatient waiting for the actual implementation of the CDO against Well Resource Mining Inc. for its magnetite mining along the shores of Caparacadan village of the municipality of Caoayan and San Sebastian village of San Vicente.
Rosimo also asked Philippine National Police Col. Jerich Royales of the Ilocos Provincial Police Office why there are no apprehensions made in pursuance to the CDO. He also asked Royales if they ever set up checkpoints along the highway to monitor the transport of extracted magnetite from Caparacadan village.
According to Tayag, they are closely monitoring with the PNP any illegal mining activities. He said that they are seeking the help of the local populace in the province including the church institutions, the non-government organizations with the help of the police. He also said they asked help from the Philippine Coast Guard.
Tayag said that what their agency is giving only permits for dredging along the riversides and they are not issuing any permit for magnetite mining. He said that black sand mining is illegal as declared by MGB national Director Leo Jasareno. He also mentioned about the Batas Pambansa 265 banning mining along shorelines.
Defend Ilocos research and education officer Sherwin de Vera said that black sand mining was pushed through without the conduct of public consultations and the approval of the people.
De Vera said that magnetite mining should be stopped while there is no comprehensive scientific study on measures to arrest the ill effects on the environment and the people. He said that pursuing such activities is exposing the people to high risks.
“Ilocos Sur is our home, when it will disappear, where would we go then?” asked Rosimo. He said that the people should come together and save the province from destruction.
At the end of the dialogue, Carranza said they hope that a resolution be made at the soonest based on the issues raised by the different sectors. Northern Dispatch