Halt blacksand mining, Cagayan gov orders

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–Cagayan Gov. Alvaro Antonio on Tuesday ordered the stoppage of operations of eight firms that have been conducting blacksand extractions in three coastal towns in the province.

In his order, the governor cited the recommendations of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) which found violations on the firms’ operations in Aparri, Buguey and Gonzaga towns based on field visits by its monitoring team in June and on Monday.

Alvaro sought the assistance of the Philippine National Police in implementing the stoppage order.

People of all ages troop to the beaches of Villa Leonora in Buguey, Cagayan, one of the villages that have been the site of magnetite sand extraction as a source of livelihood for locals who sell mounds of black earth to foreign mining companies operating in the area. Photo by Melvin Gascon

In his letter to the governor, Mario Ancheta, acting MGB director for Cagayan Valley, said the team found that blacksand extraction activities in the three coastal towns breached the 200-meter prohibited zone near seashores, as provided by the law.

He, however, declined to name the eight firms whose operations were ordered halted, saying the list should be obtained from the provincial government.

This writer tried to reach provincial environment officer Roberto Adap but he did not take calls on his mobile phone.

MGB sources, however, said companies that were issued stoppage orders included foreign firms Huaxia Trading & Mining Corp.; Lian Xing Stone Carving Corp.; Lutra, Inc.; San You Philippines Mining Trade Ltd. Inc.; Ying Yie Inc.; and Feiron Steel Inc.

Ancheta also recommended the suspension of all magnetite sand mining permits issued by the provincial government and for the governor to order the companies to immediately restore mined-out areas.

Sought for comment, the Federation of Environment Advocates (Feac), an aggrupation of non-government organizations opposed to blacksand mining in the province, expressed skepticism over Alvaro’s stoppage orders.

“We just hope that these orders will be coupled with an honest-to-goodness implementation by the concerned government, and not just for a show like what we have seen in the past,” said Arturo Alariao, Feac president.

He said they have received reports that the companies were just told by MGB and provincial environment personnel to “just lie low for a while”, in the meantime that the mining issue became “hot” with the issuance of Executive Order 79.

Sources at mining sites in Buguey and Gonzaga, however, said that as of Thursday afternoon, the companies have not ceased their operations.

For his part, Gonzaga Mayor Carlito Pentecostes, Jr. expressed disgust that the MGB conducted field visits and made the recommendations of stoppage to the governor without notifying his office.

“As far as the local government is concerned, we are not aware of any violations. If the office of the governor or MGB is saying that blacksand extraction activities are within the prohibited zone, why did they issue the permits in the first place?” he asked.


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