Governor snubbed as UK firm’s mine permit OKd anew
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines — The country’s environment officials have ignored the plea of Nueva Vizcaya Governor Luisa Cuaresma to deny any application for an exploration permit in an upland village in Quezon town that was hard hit by flashfloods last year.
Horacio Ramos, director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), approved on Thursday the renewal of the permit of Metals Exploration Mineral Resources Corp. (Metex), a British firm, despite Cuaresma’s request that any application for a mining permit in Runruno village be “outrightly denied.”
In her July 2 letter, Cuaresma told then Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes that instead of pushing mining, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources should first undertake rehabilitation efforts in the area and revoke the exploration permit given to Metex.
Jerrysal Mangaoang, MGB director for Cagayan Valley, said Ramos’ approval came after Reyes gave the clearance on July 30, a day before the secretary left office.
Reyes, who has been named energy secretary, has been at the environment department replaced by former Manila Mayor Jose “Lito” Atienza.
Reyes has been under fire over allegations of having engaged in last-minute approvals before he left the DENR July 31, including the DENR’s US$1.3-million payment to a foreign company engaged in a controversial air pollution project.
Mangaoang denied that Cuaresma’s plea was ignored by MGB in considering the renewal of Metex’s exploration permit.
“Management upstairs may have considered also the manifesto [opposing mining] by the more than 1,000 people from Runruno,” he said.
In a statement issued by the company last week, Jonathan Beardsworth, Metex chief executive officer, confirmed the renewal of the exploration permit.
The permit covering about 3,090 hectares in Barangay Runruno was first issued to Greenwater Mining Corp. in 2000 and was transferred to FCF Mining Corp. on January 22, 2002.
In February 2005, FCF Mining forged a deal to allow Metex to explore and develop the Runruno project.
The original permit was renewed in 2005, and expired on July 21, 2007, documents showed.
In her letter, Cuaresma said she was alarmed by the exploration activities being conducted by Metex in Runruno, fearing a repeat of the “massive devastation” wrought by Typhoons Paeng and Queenie last year.
At least 13 people were killed when flash floods ravaged the village as Paeng hit in October. Mudslides buried about 70 houses in the village center.
“I am convinced that the conduct of any mining activity in the area will enhance the probability of another massive landslide,” Cuaresma said.
“I am compelled to express my vigorous opposition to the conduct of any mining activity in Quezon town.”