Over 200 individuals likely to face court over illegal mining activities in Agusan del Sur

Marje Pelayo   •   December 5, 2018   •   2389


Entrance to an illegal mining site in Agusan del Sur


AGUSAN DEL SUR, Philippines – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is planning to file charges against operators of an illegal mining site in Barangay Consuelo in the municipal town of Rosario.

Recently, a team composed of representatives from the DENR Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), inspected the site.

The operation was intended to demolish all 12 illegal small-scale mining sites in the area.

The DENR said risk of soil erosion is high in the area because the ground is overly saturated.

“Ang mga area na dito ay delikado na po. Nanganganib na magkaroon ng landslide dahil po ang ground stability po ng area ay humina na po dahil sa dami ng hukay na isinasagawa dito sa ilalim,” said DENR-Caraga spokesperson, Herzon Gallego.

It was the second time that the DENR held an operation in an attempt to close the mining sites.

The DENR ordered closure of the illegal mining sites in Barangay Consuelo in June following the issuance of a cease and desist order from the Agusan del Sur government due to lack of environmental compliant permit.

But the operation on Monday (December 3) was deferred after angry residents blocked the operating team from striking down the structures. Authorities decided to postpone the operation to prevent chaos.

“Ini-explain namin ang aming objective pero hindi po sila nakinig. Tinutulan nila. Sa nakikita naming situation, baka magkagulo at maraming mamatay. Minabuti na mag cool down; dadaanin nalang siguro sa kaso,” explained Gallego.

The DENR revealed that miners are able to dig up to 20 kilograms of gold each month form the mining sites. This volume is equivalent to P7 million  in monetary value. This is the reason why the residents are adamant against the closure.

But the DENR clarified that the demolition of the mining sites does not mean the residents will be driven away from their homes.

“Layunin ng gobyerno na ma proteksyunan lang ang mga tao pero wala pong inuutos na palayasin ang mga tao doon. Sa area na maapektuhan, iyon lang po ang sinabihan ng MGB sa barangay captain (na umalis),” Gallego said.

Small-scale mining is allowed under the Philippine Mining Act but with certain provisions.

Because of the massive resistance from the miners, the DENR is now drafting a case to file against them for violations.

“Theft siguro dahil ninanakaw nila ang resources natin na walang pahintulot sa gobyerno. Hindi sila nagbabayad ng tax (so) tax evasion. Marami pong mga possibilities na paglabag sa batas na pinag aaralan po ng ating mga lawyers,” noted Gallego.

Meanwhile, agencies like the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) are willing to provide an alternative source of income to miners and their families who are likely to be affected by the mining closure. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Raymond Octobre)

DENR rejects calls to reconsider lifting of moratorium on mining, cites source of fund needed

Marje Pelayo   •   April 19, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has rejected calls from environmental groups for the agency to review its decision to lift the ban on mining.

In a virtual briefing on Monday (April 19), Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones cited the country’s need for funds especially considering the current COVID-19 crisis.

The decision, stated in Executive Order 130, allows the government to enter into new mining agreements.

“Sa ngayon hindi natin pagtutuunan ng pansin ang ganyan dahil kailangan natin kasi, marami tayong mga problema ngayon sa ating bansa na kailangan natin ng pagkukuhanan ng pondo,” Leones said during Monday’s Laging Handa virtual press briefing.

The official said the mining industry is a significant source of funds in addressing COVID-19.

“At isa ito (mining) sa nakita natin, isa sa mga paraan na para tayo makaahon ng konti, para naman magamit natin mga pondong makukuha natin para din sa…like sa COVID-19 activities, pagbibigay ng ayuda sa mga mamamayan,” he added.

Currently, Leones said there are some 100 mining projects from which the government expects to gain P21 billion in revenues from excise taxes and royalty.

However, it will take up to five years before the government benefits from it.

Leones assured that the government is not just considering gaining from the sector but likewise ensuring a balance between environmental aspects and economic aspects.

Fatal landslide in Brgy. Runruno, N. Vizcaya caused by severe weather, not mining – MGB

Marje Pelayo   •   November 27, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) ruled out mining activity as the cause of the landslide that occurred in Brgy. Runruno, Quezon, Nueva Vizcaya on November 11 during the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses.

In a press release Thursday (November 26), MGB Regional Director Mario Ancheta, “the fatal landslide was triggered by the inclement weather conditions resulting in ground saturation and eventual landslide and not due to small scale mining activity as earlier reported.”

Geologists and technical personnel from MGB Region 2 were sent to conduct a site inspection at the landslide areas where ten individuals were killed, including a two-month old baby and leaving two others injured.

Ancheta added that residents were already recommended for relocation based on a geohazard assessment result conducted by the MGB on September 18, showing that Sitios Bit-ang, Balcony, Compound, and Kinalabasa are highly or critically susceptible to natural hazards.

“The result of the assessment was presented to the community including the residents of sitio Bit-ang, Compound, Balcony, and Kinalabasa,” Ancheta said.

After the incident, the official stressed that “evacuation of the illegal settlers within the landslide prone areas should be strictly implemented.” MNP / Raymund David

Young NPA fighter thankful for being saved by the ‘enemy’

Marje Pelayo   •   November 6, 2019

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — Rebel combatant alias ‘Kent’ was lost for words over his experience in the hands of his “enemies” – the soldiers of the 29th Infantry Battalion – after an encounter in San Isidro, Santiago, Agusan del Norte.

‘Kent’ sustained three gunshot wounds during the crossfire on November 2.

The soldiers captured him as he could no longer walk due to his injury.

He thought that was the end for him.

“Naka-set na sa isip ko na papatayin ako talaga kasi susuko (I set my mind that I would be killed if I surrender),” he said in his local dialect.

“Ang sabi nila kapag may giyera, papatayin ka kapag nahuli ka ng Army (They say in war, you will be killed if the Army captures you),” he added.

But to his surprise, the soldiers brought him to a nearby hospital and while gasping for air, he heard the soldiers telling him to hold on and try to survive.

The young NPA fighter is now recovering from his wound while the military is working on the possible assistance he may receive once he officially decommissions from the rebel group.

“Ang una nating ginagawa ngayon ay maka recover muna siya (What we are focusing on first is his recovery),” said Maj. Francisco Garelllo, the spokesperson of the 402 Infantry Brigade, Philippine Army who handles the case of alias Kent.

‘Kent’ was recruited to the New People’s Army (NPA) when he was only 16 years old.

He realized he spent his two years fighting for the wrong side.

He said he has decided to return to the government and start a new life with his family.

 “Sinasabi naman nila sa akin na, ‘Dapat mabuhay ka kasi sisikapin naming mabuhay ka,’” Kent said of the soldiers who rescued him.

“Kaya pinilit ko ring maka-survive,” he concluded. – MNP (with reports from Dante Amento)


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