Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Editorial: Mayor Ricarte Padilla’s worries

The provincial capitol at Daet, CamNorte ... the powers that-be decides who gets the mineral wealth and who don't, one of the many headaches plaguing the LGUs of Jose Panganiban, Paracale, Sta Elena and Labo, which are all hosts to mineral resource like iron ore and gold. - MWBuzzpic by ALFREDO PHERNANDEZ

SOMETIME last week, the Philippine government seized a Chinese-registered vessel while it was anchored at Paracale Bay, in Paracale, CamNorte.

The vessel Peace Angel was earlier found by vigilant Paracalenos to have a load of 50,000 metric tons of iron ore believed to be more than US$2 million, which had been illegally mined from Paracale and it was trying to smuggle the cargo out of the country.

Accordingly, the iron ore was mined from an area covered by a mining claim, but which has never been developed by the rights claimants. In short, the said mining claims also did not have proper permit to develop the ore body.

The immediate questions to ask: How did the illegal mining take place, and how come it was allowed?

Could the municipal government of Paracale have prevented this illegal activity?

Under the present mining laws of the country, the municipal government is just a by-stander as far as mining activities within its jurisdiction are concerned.

It can’t run after the culprits that are destroying the environment, or prevent them from carrying out illegal mining activities.

If a mining operation is doing badly creating havoc on the environment, the municipal government can’t do anything about this but only report the infraction to Legaspi-based Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) and the Mines Geophysics Bureau (MGB).

If these agencies decide to act, fine. But meantime, the municipal government could only watch in horror the destruction of environment taking place.

The only thing it can do is endorse applications for mining permit, extension of mining rights claims and endorse a miner’s application for the so-called CEC or the Certificate for Environmental Compliance.

Under a proposed Executive order which is expected to be signed any time now, a so-called Provincial/City Mining Regulatory Board (PCMRB) will be created within three months from the time the EO is signed by the President.

While the EO mandates the creation of PCMRB, it has altogether ignored the presence of the LGU whose municipal jurisdiction is host to mining activities.

Under the proposed EO, the regulatory control and issuance of small-scale mining permits are vested in the Provincial/City Mining Regulatory Board (PCMRB), which, in this case, is run by the provincial government headed by the governor.

Almost all mining districts are located in the municipalities which make up the entire province and not in cities, and so therefore, the local government or the municipal government should have a direct hand in overseeing and controlling such mining activities.
The logic is simple: it is the municipality which will take the brunt of every ecological burden that could arise from faulty mining activities.

Our national mining law may have specified the DENR, the EMB and the EMB and the respective PMRBs/CMRBs as the main bodies tasked in the issuance of large and small-scale mining permits, and are fully vested with the corresponding regulatory functions and control over mining activities.

But is this fair? Is there justice?

In recent interview with MWBuzz, Mayor Ricarte Padilla has branded it as self-defeating for the municipalities concerned.

He said that mining is predominantly conducted in municipalities and its ill-effects will be felt by the host municipality in the years to come.

“We believe that the municipality as host of mining activity can exercise much proper due diligence processes in determining the capability of a mining applicant to fully observe environmental protection and socio-economic interventions within the areas affected by their operations.

Padilla said that the Local Chief Executive (LCE) of host municipality sitting as regular member of the PMRB, the issues of infrastructure dilapidation caused by the passing of heavy equipment owned by the mining operators could be fully addressed.

He said that if a Municipal Regulatory Board (MRB) is not allowed to exist under the law, then his administration is proposing to make it compulsory for the LCE of the host municipality to have a sit in the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) as a form of installing check and balance in the processing of mining-related permits.

Padilla said that the LCEs of host municipalities shall also be given the power to constitute a Municipal Mining Regulatory Council (MMRC) which shall be tasked, in close coordination with the DENR, PMRB and other government agencies, to closely monitor compliance of small-scale and large mining operations with existing laws within the area of their jurisdiction.

The Paracale saga happened because the LGU did not have any power to stop such illegal activities.

The moneyed Chinese owners of the vessel did not have to deal with the Paracale LGU.

Rumor circulating around the province is that these culprits went straight to the powers-that-be at the CamNorte provincial capitol to get blessings to spirit away the iron ore.

However, were it not for the efforts of Paracalenos to block the ship from leaving the bay at Paracale, the Chinese could have easily stolen million-dollar worth of iron ore just like a walk in the park, because of some alleged “padrinos” at the capitolyo.

Padilla is getting needle pricks because right now, there’s a heap of iron ore worth millions of dollars that has been abandoned after the Philippine Iron Mines (PIM) closed shop in mid-1970s.

This huge stockpile of iron ore is sitting somewhere in Baranggay Larap, then the host of PIM’s mining activities, awaiting shipment across the Pacific Ocean.

The Mayor of Jose Panganiban fears that one day, this wealth could just disappear right under his nose, and thus deprive his government of the much-needed funds in the form of royalties from the sale of this resource.

He said that the powers-that-be at the capitolyo could make it happen, just like the way magician David Copperfield does it.

At this juncture, Padilla feels powerless.

- Alfredo P Hernandez

A portion of Mambulao Bay, which has been inundated by mining silt and wastes due to indiscriminate gold operations in the municipality. The JP-LGU is powerless to stop operators because the regulatory powers solely belong to the EMB, MGB and DENR. - MWBuzzpic by ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ

1 comment:

  1. A peoples rally behind mayor Padilla with media coverage will go a long way....but if he does it alone, it will be just a voice in the wilderness.