N. Vizcaya solon cautions DENR execs: Watch your moves
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla on Sunday warned environment officials to be “more careful” in directing a foreign mining company to resume operations and defying an order of stoppage from the provincial government.
Padilla came to the defense of his allies in the provincial government after Environment Sec. Lito Atienza, in a media statement, warned them for doing a supposed illegal act in halting the earth-moving activities of OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. in upland Didipio village in Kasibu town.
“Nobody can stop the governor, not even Atienza. I am warning the secretary, that being a former city mayor, and a person in authority,he should not be violating the provisions of law; he should uphold the law,” the lawmaker said.
On May 6, OceanaGold’s activities in Didipio came to a halt after provincial officials blocked the company’s access roads, enforcing a cease-and-desist order (CDO) issued by Gov. Luisa Cuaresma on April 9 for its refusal to settle its supposed local tax obligations.
The CDO has hampered the company’s efforts to meet its target of starting mineral production in February 2009.
In a media statement, the DENR secretary warned provincial officials against the “illegal act” of blocking the operations of OcenaGold, as he maintained that the province cannot collect quarry taxes from the company because it is not engaged in commercial quarrying.
But Padilla said Atienza cannot issue an order for OceanaGold to resume and violate the CDO, a legal issuance which is based on the authority granted by the local government code.
Citing the local code, the Nueva Vizcaya lawmaker said parties who question the legality of a local government’s impositions based on a local tax ordinance should seek relief from the Department of Justice, then the courts.
“Regardless of his opinion, whatever he says or whatever he does is not binding to the provincial government of Nueva Vizcaya. He has no business telling the governor what she can and cannot do,” Padilla said.
“It is Atienza who is out of his senses,” he added, alluding to the DENR secretary’s earlier statement telling Cuaresma to “come to her senses” after issuing the CDO.
The House committee on cultural communities will conduct an ocular inspection to the areas of operation of OceanaGold and RoyalCo Resources, Limited, two Australian companies operating in Nueva Vizcaya, over reported human rights violations on May 29, Padilla said.
He also warned Mario Ancheta, acting Cagayan Valley director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, the implementing arm of the DENR in the Didipio project, against enforcing Atienza’s directive.
“If he follows the illegal order of Secretary Atienza, I will see to it that I will make life difficult with him,” he said.
Sought for comment, Ancheta said: “We’re just doing our job”.
Asked whether he will enforce Atienza’s resumption order and disregard Cuaresma’s CDO, Ancheta said his agency will act “depending on the situation on the ground”.