CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—Mayor Vicente Emano has allowed small-scale mining operations in villages near the Iponan River as it issued “special permits” without approval from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Engineer Daniel Belderon, the regional chief of the MGB’s mine management division, said the city government also did not convene the City Mining Regulatory Board (CMRB) over the small-scale mining operations.
The Iponan River overflowed and flooded several villages, including those where Emano built low cost houses for the poor—Barangays Canitoan, Pagatpat, Iponan and Bulua—as disaster struck the city on Dec. 17 at the height of Tropical Storm “Sendong.”
Belderol said although Presidential Decree No. 1899, or the law governing small-scale mining, allows the city or the provincial executive officer to grant permits, it also mandates the city government to convene the CMRB.
The MGB would serve as chair of the CMRB, Belderol said, adding that the body will be composed of the local chief executive or his representative as the vice chair, a representative from a nongovernment organization and a representative from both small-scale and large-scale mining associations.
But Emano said there was no request from the MGB to convene the CMRB.
“Why did they not file a complaint when I approved the permits?” Emano said.
Emano said he plans to convene the board soon, but insisted that mining operations in the city are small-scale.
The mayor also said he was not aware of PD 1899 on small-scale mining.
Belderol said before the city government could issue permits for small-scale mining operations, it should first get approval from the MGB.
“That is why we don’t have a record of the small-scale mining operations in the city,” he said.
But Emano denied this, saying the permits he issued “went through the DENR office.”
Emano said he has lost track of how many permits he had issued.
City Councilor Edgar Cabanlas said the mining permits also did not pass through the city council.
To this, Emano urged Cabanlas to check with the city council records, saying the legislative body had given him authority to issue permits.
The small-scale mining operations in the hinterland villages involved large machinery, including earth-moving equipment.
At least two river barges processing sand and gravel in the Iponan River were reported by residents to authorities.
Cabanlas said at least seven firms were into mining along the Iponan River.
The mountains of Cagayan de Oro are rich in chromite and gold deposits.