By ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ
THE government has finally stepped in to stop illegal mining operations in the gold districts of Mambulao, Labo and Paracale.
According to the latest Facebook posting by CamNorte radio journalist Rommel Ibasco Fenix, officer in charge regional director of the Mines and Geophysics Bureau Theodore Rommel E Pestaῆo has ordered CamNorte Governor Edgardo A Tallado to stop issuing temporary small-scale mining permits (TSSMP) to small-scale miners in the province.
Hundreds of these operators are based in the three mining districts.
Pestano said in his order that small-scale mining operations are considered illegal under Executive Order No. 79 issued in July 2012 if done outside a declared Minahang Bayan, or People’s Small Scale Mining Area.
He said that as of now, there has been no declared Minahang Bayan in CamNorte, which means all small – scale operations in the province are deemed illegal.
Pestano stressed in his directive to Tallado that a number of SSMPs he issued out did not pass an evaluation process supposed to be carried out by the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board which the governor appointed sometime ago.
The MGB director told Tallado to desist from issuing such permits.
Among those who got TSSMP from the governor were Susana Doctolero, Rolando Betchayda and Liaoning Fenghua Group Philippine Mining Co, Inc.
As of now, CamNorte has no legally-constituted mining regulatory board as the one formed by Tallado has never been confirmed by DENR Secretary Ramon Paje.
The Tallado-created PMRB has been put to question by the DENR owing to the questionable manner it was formed.
According to Fenix, the Tallado PMRB comprised the following: 1) Chairman -- regional director of MGB Region 5; 2) vice –chairman – CamNorte governor who is representedby Leopoldo Badiola; 3) Vilma B Cayabyab, who represents the Uni-Dragon Mining andDevelopment Corporation; 4) Wilfredo A Endionela, a representative from the non-governmental organizations (NGO); and 5) Nonie Besa – a representative from the small-scale mining sector.
Fenix, in earlier commentaries in his radio program, had alleged that Badiola, Cayabyab and Besa are Tallado cronies.
According to Fenix, Besa has obtained a permit to operate at Baranggay Napaod in Labo town.
Residents in this baranggay have claimed that Besa’s reckless gold mining operations destroyed their environment.
On the other hand, Ronaldo C Vargas, who is Tallado’s mining business liaison officer, was found to have signed an export declaration papers for Liaoning Fenghua Group for 10,000 metric tons of iron ore/iron sand.
The said documents were filed with the Department of Trade and Industry regional office in Legazpi.
The iron ore was allegedly mined in Larap by Malaysian-owned Investwell Resources Inc.
Last December 6, the iron ore was loaded onto m/v Chang Min, which has remained docked at the private pier of Pan Century Surfactant at baranggay Osmena in Mambulao.
Fenix said Investwell’s ore transport permit and mineral ore export permit, which were issued by Tallado, had not been validated and confirmed by DENR-MGB, a violation of DENR memorandum order No 2010-07.
It has been alleged that the Malaysian-owned miner had earlier shipped out to China about 200,000 metric tons of iron ore.
Investwell Resources, one of the biggest miners in CamNorte, got TSSMP and ore transport permit (OTP) and mineral ore export permit (MOEP) from Tallado.
Recently, MGB said Investwell has no valid permit to extract iron ore in Larap because it has never complied with DENR requirements.