By ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ
THE CamNorte provincial mining regulatory board is aN exclusive two-man team affair that decides on the fate of the multi-million peso small-scale mining activities in the province’s mining districts.
The members of the board are associates handpicked by Governor Edgardo Tallado, who is the board chairman.
It was not immediately known if the names Tallado submitted to DENR have been approved.
Under the Letter of Instruction No. 79 issued by the president a year ago, the Provincial and City Mining Regulatory Board (PCMRB) should be composed of the Mining and GeoSciences Bureau regional director, one from the a non-governmental organization (NGO) involved in environmental protection, and representatives from the large-scale and small-scale mining companies.
Of the Tallado-handpicked members, only one is active – the one closely working with the governor on matters concerning the gold mining activities.
This was revealed by radio journalist Rommel Ibasco Fenix with the Caceres Broadcasting Corporation based in Bicol in his recent post on the Facebook account of the Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte Group.
Fenix said in his Facebook post that Tallado ignored the LOI and installed his associates who now make up the province’s PCMRB.
He said that Tallado appointed one small-scale miner, a certain Nonie Basa, who later secured a mining permit at Napaod, a minerals district in the town of Labo, CamNorte.
Napaod is now at the center of a controversy arising from various illegal mining activities in the area that have resulted to the destruction of the environment, according to earlier Facebook postings by some environmental activists.
However, Fenix said “Nonie Basa” has been found to be a fictitious name, which is allegedly being represented “whenever there was a transaction to be made” by another person identified as “Dodie Vargaz”, said to be a trusted Tallado man.
On the other hand, the allegedly handpicked representative from a large-scale mining firm UniDragon was Vilma Cayabyab, according to Fenix.
UniDragon has been allegedly involved in the destruction of at least 40ha of coral reef area in Pulang Daga, Paracale, he said.
Tallado also handpicked a certain PB Endionela, of Labo, to represent the NGO known as “Tao Kalikasan”.
Fenix said the Tallado mining regulatory board has become idle to be able to do its job as the regulators of the mining activities in CamNorte.
“Bagkos, and nagdi-decide sa lahat ng mining activities sa CamNorte ay dadalawang tao lang … at ‘yan ay si Tallado at Sim Mata.” (In fact, only two men in the board are deciding on all mining activities in CamNorte … and they are Tallado and Sim Mata.”)
In April last year, Mambulao Mayor Ricarte “Dong” Padilla told MWBuzz that he wrote Executive Secretary Paquito "Jojo" Navarro Ochoa, Jr requesting him to consider giving the local government units (LGUs) a seat in the PCMRB.
Padilla explained that it is the municipality hosting the mining district that is suffering from the destruction of the environment arising from illegal mining activities, and therefore it deserves a seat in the board.
In the case of Mambulao, he said that there are many small scale gold mining activities going on, which have been violating the law by using explosives and mercury to extract gold.
Padilla said that since Mambulao as LGU is not represented in the board, it has no way of regulating mining activities in its jurisdiction because the authority is with the PCMRB.
Padilla sent the letter to Ochoa three months before LOT 79, which created the PCMRB in provinces where it did not yet exist, was signed by the President.
However, the signed LOI did not give the LGUs a seat in the PCMRB.
Effort by MWBuzz to reach Tallado at his office in the provincial capitol for his reaction failed.
Fenix decided to expose the current make up of the PCMRB to refute claims by Tallado supporters that “all is well at the board”.
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