Gov’t execs hit for ‘cover-up’ of Cagayan mining
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–Anti-mining groups in Cagayan scored officials of government for allegedly staging a cover-up of alleged illegal mining operations in the province, which, they said, was exposed by the recent grounding of a Korean ship as it was to ship a cargo of magnetite sand out of the country.
Gensun Agustin, convenor of the newly-formed federation of anti-mining movement in Cagayan, slammed the “protection” that government authorities there in order to conceal illegal mining and quarrying operations on the riverbed of the Cagayan River and the province’s northern coastline, allegedly by foreigners.
“The situation has become very clear: illegal mining has been going on in Cagayan but people in government, who are supposed to be the first to stop these operations are the ones scrambling to protect these aliens who are exploiting our natural resources,” he said.
Agustin assailed the alleged conspiracy among government agencies, which include the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the provincial environment office, in a “desperate” effort to cover up the ongoing illegal mining activities in Cagayan.
“They always tell us that we should provide proof that indeed there are mining operations. But when we present to them mounds of evidence, such as photos, video footages and witnesses’ testimonies, they are so quick to dismiss all these proofs,” he said.
But by divine intervention, Agustin said, government men’s claim that no mining is ongoing in Cagayan was belied when a North Korean ship, MV Nam Yang 8, reportedly loaded with about 2,816 tons of magnetite sand bound for China, malfunctioned off Claveria town in Cagayan.
It soon drifted westward and ran aground near the shore of Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte.
“After this (mishap) was exposed, people in government are now one in saying that everything–from the working papers of the Korean crew, to the load of magnetite sand–is in order, but they could not show proof,” he said.
These recent development, Agustin said, has emboldened groups to unify and form a multi-sectoral movement that will lead efforts to oppose any mining activity in the province.
The federation, which was organized Saturday, is composed of people’s organizations from Cagayan towns that said to have been affected by illegal mining and quarrying operations, namely: Santa Ana, Gonzaga, Santa Teresita, Buguey, Aparri, Camalaniugan, Lallo, and Baggao.
Sought for comment, Mario Ancheta, MGB Cagayan Valley director, however, denied the allegations.
“There is no cover up here. We are just making our findings based on what we see from our validation activities, and from what we saw, there are no ongoing mining operations anywhere in Cagayan,” he said.
He maintained that the magnetite cargo was allowed to be shipped out of the country and was covered by an export permit issued by Gov. Alvaro Antonio.
He said Nam Yang 8’s load of black sand was part of an “old stock” that was allowed to be shipped out, despite a cease-and-desist order earlier issued by former Environment Sec. Lito Atienza on all mining operations in the province.
However, Fr. Christopher Coballes, Aparri parish priest, disputed this claim.
“There is no such thing as ‘old stock’ in Lallo; we have looked everywhere and nowhere have we found mounds of black sand awaiting shipment. (Nam Yang 8’s) cargo is freshly extracted sand,” he said.
For his part, Roberto Adap, Cagayan’s environment officer, would neither confirm nor deny that the magnetite shipment was covered by a shipping permit.
“I would rather suggest that you visit my office and take a look at the documents, then you make your own judgment whether the papers are sufficient for the cargo to be considered legal,” he said in a phone interview.
Ancheta urged anti-mining groups to document all mining activities that they discover and file a formal complaint.
“We cannot simply act on the basis of verbal reports and text messages. Everything should be made official,” he said.