Thursday, 19 July 2012

COMMENTARY: Mambulao’s quest to become a 'Mining Reservation' area

The conveyor facility at Johson Gold Mining campsite in Baranggay Bagong-bayan, Jose Panganiban … JGMC’s operations in the municipality attest to the presence of substantial gold reserves in the area aside from those discovered within its mining claims within the municipality. – MWBuzzpic by AP HERNANDEZ


SECTION 5 of President Aquino’s Executive Order No 79 mandates the creation of mineral reservation areas across the country.

To wit: “Potential and future mining areas with known strategic mineral reserves and resources shall be declared as Mineral Reservations for the development of strategic industries identified in the Philippine Development Plan and a Nationalization Plan.”

This would be done “…after proper consultation with all concerned stakeholders such as, but not limited to, residents of affected communities, LGUs, the business sector and non-government and civil society organizations”.

This is one piece of good news that the municipality of Jose Panganiban, in CamNorte, should welcome with open arms.

There is a big chance that our town called Mambulao, which means, “gold-rich” would eventually be declared a “mineral reservation” area because of its known strategic mineral reserves and resources.

The national government should not think twice in doing this.

After all, the municipality of Jose Panganiban has been known to be a gold district from the time the first Spaniards came to our village during the 1600s where they found gold, gold and more gold.

With our “mabulawan” (gold-rich) legend spreading far and wide, many people came to settle here as well as in Paracale to partake in the vast wealth for their taking. Mambulao, actually was a former district of Paracale with reference to its gold prospects. But when gold hunters began populating Mambulao which was then delivering more gold, the Spanish authorities based in Bicol designated Mambulao as a district of its own, distinct from that of Paracale’s.

Over last 400 years, many people came to settle in Mambulao – they came from the provinces of Quezon (then known as Tayabas), Bicol, Visayas and many other places that our town has become a so-called “melting pot” where gold-seekers-wealth-seekers converged and eventually raised families with native women.

The gold deposits that mining operations at San Mauricio on the mountains of Baranggay Bagong-Bayan continue to extract have never been exhausted.

And because of this, a new operator – the Johson Gold Mining Corporation – has established its camp right on the spot to develop this seemingly vast reserve and to chase the rest of the gold veins in at least four wide mining claims in the nearby golden mountain.

Says Mayor Ricarte Padilla about Mambulao’s mineral wealth: “Our municipality was once the host of the Philippine Iron Mines (PIM), used to be known as the largest iron ore producer in the country.

“Our iron ore deposits are measured in millions of metric tons and we are considering on capitalizing on this fact by soon establishing an integrated steel manufacturing plant at our special economic zone at Baranggay Larap.

Padilla said that the municipality had been the host of the now-defunct Benguet Gold Mining Company, which made a fortune from the yellow metal.

Likewise, “we continue to host various large and small-scale gold mining entities, a manifestation of the richness of our gold deposits,” says Padilla.

If Mambulao is declared a “Mineral Reservation” area based on its track record in gold and iron ore production, the municipality would benefit from its mineral resources through the royalty scheme.

The iron deposits in Larap have been scientifically proven to be in million metric tons and are of commercial value using the latest extraction technology.

Already, one investor known as Investwell has cornered the mining claims around Larap and is bent on cashing in on the ore deposits.

Padilla said if the LGU is given the authority to manage its own iron and gold deposits, it could lead to the creation of an integrated steel industry situated at the 30-hectare economic zone at Baranggay Larap.

The mayor pitched the idea in a recent letter to Executive Secretary Paquito N Ochoa Jr, informing him that Jose Panganiban hosts huge deposits of gold and iron.

The said letter was sent to the secretary last March when his office was height of drafting of a new Executive Order, which later came to be known, as signed, as EO79. It was signed early this month.

Padilla told Ochoa that “we are solidly for the establishment of a mineral reservation as we foresee added local revenues through our share of royalties”.

“We just hope that our municipality is included in the creation of a mineral reservation, and be invited in the consultation on the determination of the rate of royalties.”

As one of the mineral-host municipalities jilted by EO79 by depriving them the rights to regulate gold mining operations in its very own jurisdiction, Mambulao could still look forward to a better deal from the national government by being designated as a “Mineral Reservation”.

Maybe, just maybe, the financial reward from gaining such a status could compensate for the loss of its rights to regulate small-scale mining operations in its own backyard and face the horror of decaying environment as a result of bad mining practices.

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