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.

Restive

Workers’ strike looms at N. Vizcaya mining site

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–Workers of a large-scale mining project in upland Kasibu town here are set to go on strike, following a deadlock in their negotiations with the mining company over a number of wage-related demands.

On Monday, members of the Pun-Oh-Ohhaan Hi Kiphodan labor union (Kiphodan) cast their votes on whether or not they would launch a work stoppage and force their employer, mining firm OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. to address their grievances.

Kiphodan consists of about 80 workers and employees of the gold-copper project in Didipio, which is operated by OceanaGold, an Australian company.

“We are left with no choice but to go on strike. We tried to come to terms with the company but they would not heed our demands,” said Wendy Nicano, union president.Image

The impending labor strike comes on the heels of three failed negotiations between union officers and the company for the past five weeks, triggered by the workers’ filing of a notice to strike with the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) on Dec. 10.

According to Nicano, OceanaGold has refused to heed the same demands that workers have been airing since the company went into full commercial operations in Didipio in April 2013.

Union members have been complaining about the supposed meager pay that they have been getting from the company, and the “discriminatory” scheme of benefits among its employees, especially against locals.

They have also been protesting the alleged harassment being waged by OceanaGold officials against union officers and sympathizers, including the supposedly unjust termination of Nicano and sanctions slapped against other officers for “petty” violations.

“(The workers) had attained small victories especially after the mayor ordered a shutdown of the mine last year. But in general, this company seems not intimidated by anything or anyone, and just imposes its will on the people,” she said.

This writer tried to reach OceanaGold officials for comment, but they declined. Ramoncito Gozar, senior vice president for communications and external affairs, said he has yet to receive his copy of the strike notice.

On Jan. 10, the union filed a notice with the Dole’s National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) to hold strike vote, following the lapse of the 30-day “cooling off” period from the day they filed the notice to strike.

For Monday’s vote, the workers, who are working round-the-clock mostly on an eight-hour shift, will be given the chance to cast their vote only during their breaks, said Estrella Rosal, NCMB Cagayan Valley director.

She said that since the talks began, the union and OceanaGold have managed to agree on a number of issues in the workers’ collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

“The only unresolved issues have to something to do with the economic provisions in the CBA, or those that pertain to salaries and wages,” the official said.

According to Rosal, the NCMB will continue to pursue negotiations and possible settlement between the parties, regardless of the result of Monday’s strike balloting.#

‘Ignorantia legis’

CSC: Removal of Vizcaya workers by gov illegal

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya—The Civil Service Commission (CSC) has declared as illegal the order of Gov. Ruth Padilla to demote and dismiss 196 permanent employees of the provincial government.

In her Oct. 10 decision, Bienvenida Ragucos, CSC regional director in Cagayan Valley, said Padilla’s order was illegal because she did not have the authority to revoke civil service appointments.

Ragucos also ordered the workers’ reinstatement with payment of their back wages.

“All told, it is clear that [Governor] Padilla overstepped her authority by arrogating unto herself a power which, by clear mandate of the law, resides in the [CSC],” said the decision, a copy of which was received by provincial government employees on Tuesday.

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Padilla

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‘Impunity’

N. Vizcaya mine firms slammed anew for human rights abuses
By Melvin C Gascon

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–Three foreign mining companies were assailed last week for alleged human rights abuses they continued to commit against residents in their areas of operation, mostly belonging to indigenous communities.

In a privilege speech, Rep. Carlos Padilla detailed the supposed human rights violations committed “with impunity” by OceanaGold Philippines, Inc., FCF Minerals, Inc. and Royalco Resources Ltd., all foreign firms.

He took to task the Aquino government for its alleged failure to look after the welfare of its citizens.

“Continuing research has led me to entertain the idea that the state is not only remiss of its duty to protect human rights. Worse, it allows its agents to be used by these companies to protect private business interest,” Padilla said in his Sept. 9 speech.

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JPE clout

Smuggled white sand traced to JPE’s Cagayan resort

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–The truckloads of white beach sand that were seized Thursday in a foiled smuggling attempt in Santa Ana in Cagayan were extracted from a private resort reportedly owned by Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, sources said on Tuesday.

The source, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, said the 10 truckloads of white sand came from Enrile’s resort property, which is undergoing development at Gotan beach in San Vicente village.

The white sand was requested by Isabela Gov. Faustino “Bojie” Dy III and was supposed to be delivered to Ilagan City in Isabela for an ongoing project at the provincial capitol grounds.

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Now white

Smuggling of sand from Cagayan’s ‘Boracay’ bared

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–Authorities on Thursday intercepted ten truckloads of white sand that were extracted from the beaches of Santa Ana town in Cagayan, widely touted as “Boracay of the North”.

Mayor Darwin Tobias said the convoy of 10 dump trucks were stopped by police and environment personnel following a chase at Barangay Racat, about 20 km from the source of their load in San Vicente village.

The drivers failed to show any quarry permit or any written order upon verification and questioning, he said.

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Anguib beach in Barangay San Vicente in Santa Ana, Cagayan. Photo from http://www.theislandexplorer.blogspot.com

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Disaster

‘Labuyo’ hammers N. Vizcaya

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–residents recounted the rude awakening they had on Monday dawn when typhoon “Labuyo” slammed northern Luzon, whopping winds and dousing rains that caused flooding in many areas.

The aftermath of the typhoon saw hundreds of families, especially those in riverside communities, forced out of their houses and scrambling to safer grounds as water rose in the early morning.

Many admitted they were uninformed and ill-prepared.

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ROLL CALL. On a roadside shed, village councilwoman Salvacion Orpiano prepares the list of residents in Busilac village in Bayombong town who were displaced by flashfloods on Monday morning, a few hours after the worst of typhoon “Labuyo” was felt in Nueva Vizcaya. Men and children watch the raging waters of Magat river. Photo by Melvin Gascon

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