Manila: The officials in resource-rich provinces are involved in illegal mining and this is the reason why government is having a difficult time curbing the clandestine practice, a top official has said.
Secretary Jesse Robredo of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) said in an interview aired by radio station dzBB that mayors, governors and other officials are involved in illegal mining either directly or as financiers.
Under the country’s law, local officials have the authority to issue mining permits especially to small-scale mining operations.
But Robredo said these officials and their cohorts skirt the law on small scale mining by presenting their operations as small scale while the fact is that they are fronts for big business concerns.
“These operations are well organised and use heavy equipment and dynamite, so how can these be considered as small scale?” Robredo asked.
The Philippines has one of Asia’s richest mineral deposits and a large part of it is believed to be still untapped. In most cases, illegal small-scale mining operations financed by local officials, have been blamed for landslides and disasters that occurred in mining areas in the Philippines such as Compostella Valley in Mindanao among others.
On July 3, Robredo ordered an investigation against Governor Edgardo Tallado of Camarines Norte for his alleged involvement in various illegal mining activities in the iron ore and gold-rich towns of Paracale and Jose Panganiban.
The DILG chief ordered the probe in the wake of several complaints against illegal mining operations in Camarines Norte, which allegedly has the “blessings” of the governor.
Rio Paliza, president of the Paracale chapter of the Junior Chamber International Philippines, in a letter dated June 18, 2012, complained to Robredo and DENR Secretary Ramon Paje and Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon about violation of environmental laws by three mining companies operating in Paracale, which were issued Temporary Small-Scale Mining Permit by Tallado’s office.
She said the operations of the three mining companies in Paracale — the Uni Dragon Mining and Development Corp, the Philippine Bao Tong Mining Corporation and Liaoning Fenghua Group Philippine Mining Company, Inc — have caused so much damaged to the environment, particularly to the Paracale shoreline.
“These mining firms have been illegally and irresponsibly operating in our town which has caused damage to some 40 hectares of coral and marine life in Barangay Bagumbayan by disposing their mud waste directly on our sea that resulted to a waste-deep mud waste,” Paliza said.
Last week, President Benigno Aquino approved wide-ranging reforms in the mining industry under Executive Order No 79 that aims to strengthen environmental protection, promote responsible mining and provide a more equitable revenue-sharing scheme amid the projected boom in the sector.
Aquino’s directive lifted a mining moratorium he ordered 18 months ago amid concerns that the country’s natural wealth will be exploited to exhaustion with Filipinos ending up not benefitting properly from the riches mined from their ground.