Reversal

DOJ pushes raps vs Chinese aliens for illegal mining

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–The Department of Justice has recommended the filing of criminal charges against 23 Chinese and their three Filipino partners for alleged illegal mining in the coastal villages of Aparri in Cagayan in August 2013.

In a resolution, lawyer Rommel Baligod, regional state prosecutor, found probable cause to indict workers of the Hua Xia Mining and Trading Corp. for alleged theft of minerals from the beaches of Paddaya and Dodan villages.

“It is beyond dispute that respondents extracted about 150 metric tons of magnetized sand (black sand) from the shores of Aparri, Cagayan and then transferred and stockpiled them in their processing plant inland for processing. Such act constitutes theft of minerals under the Mining Act,” the six-page DOJ resolution read in part.

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A cargo ship docked at Port Irene at the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport in Santa Ana, Cagayan awaits loading of processed magnetite from blacksand mining operations in the coastal and riverside communities of the province, with the help of mineral processing plant such as this one in the foreground. Anti-mining advocates said these activities are illegal and are benefiting mainly unscrupulous politicians and officials in government. Photo by Melvin Gascon

The DOJ named the accused aliens as Wang Wendong, Yang Yonglian, Ma Pei Hua, Zhu Liren, Hou Linlin, Fu Yujun, Xiao Peibao, Li Wenyong, Li Liming, Jin Dejun, Li Laijie, Wang Chengqiang, Jiang Bin, Lin Quiang, Xu Jianjun, Jiang Bin, Lin Quing, Xu Jianjun, Jiang Nan, Zheng Feng and Wang Gongliang.

It also implicated Hua Xia’s other corporate officers, including Chinese Gao Dejun, Zhang Deliang, and Filipinos Rebecca Gregorio, Atanacio Hipolito and Alejandro Fernandez.

The case was filed before the Cagayan DOJ in August by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation, days after rounding up the suspects in a series of raids against illegal blacksand mining activities in Aparri, Buguey and Gonzaga towns.

The arrested suspects however, were released days later after Cagayan prosecutors, cleared the suspects of the charges, citing mostly technical errors.

This prompted the NBI to elevate the case to the regional DOJ on appeal.

In its Jan. 6 resolution, the regional prosecutor’s office contradicted the earlier findings of the Cagayan DOJ, saying the technical lapses they cited were “substantially” complied with by the NBI, which acted as complaining party.

It debunked the respondents’ defense that the volume of blacksand which was found in their possession was only derived from a “test-run” operation.

“(The suspects) alienated the State’s ownership of the minerals by appropriating the same for processing whether for a test run of their plant or a full scale operation. What matters is that they exercise ownership over the sand that they take away,” the DOJ said.

The respondents’ claim that their activities were tolerated by the agents of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) does not likewise absolve them of criminal liability, the resolution said.

“If indeed the MGB people gave such instructions or blessing for the respondents to extract and dispose of the minerals without permit, it will not free the respondents of any criminal liability; the only effect is that it will also make the erring MGB official/s equally liable for complicity,” it added.

Sought for comment, Mario Ancheta, MGB regional director for Cagayan Valley, laughed off allegations that they “gave their blessings” for the Chinese mining company to conduct blacksand mining operations in Aparri.

“We were told that there was a (memorandum of agreement) between Hua Xia and the local government of Aparri which required the extraction of blacksand, and we allowed it out of respect for the (town government),” he said, adding that most blacksand extraction activities in Cagayan were covered by permits.

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