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Protest vs mining hounds Pangasinan pageant

CANDIDATES of Miss Earth pose for a picture at Narciso Ramos Sports and Civics Center Complex in Lingayen. WILLIE LOMIBAO/CONTRIBUTOR

DAGUPAN CITY—The provincial government on Saturday hosted the prepageant activities for this year’s Miss Earth candidates, not expecting to encounter protests from critics of a black sand extraction project in the province.

Vicente Oliquino, president of antimining organization Aro Mo Ako Sambayanan (Aromas), said partnering Miss Earth pageant’s environmental awareness campaign with the provincial administration was “like asking the wolf to watch over the chicken coop.”

Oliquino is a critic of the project to extract black sand from a Lingayen coastal lot to clear it for conversion into a golf course. In January, the extraction activities along the

5.5-hectare coastal area were suspended by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Provincial Administrator Rafael Baraan said Oliquino’s group was “again peddling lies.” “There’s no black sand mining. They have been deliberately deceiving and misleading the people by peddling a bunch of lies,” he said.

Oliquino’s group had sued the provincial government over the black sand issue, but Baraan said Oliquino must not interfere with activities like the Miss Earth program while the lawsuit is being heard in court.

Baraan was referring to Aromas’ complaint in the Office of the Ombudsman.

“He (Oliquino) has been going to different fora, including the Office of the President and the Ombudsman,” Baraan said.

The Miss Earth candidates attended a news conference on Saturday after meeting the governor. They are scheduled to tour the towns of Bolinao and Bugallon today before gracing the pageant’s long gown competition.

On Monday, the candidates will join a coastal cleanup program at the provincial capitol’s beach front in Lingayen.

“Sorry, Miss Earth, our governor is not the right mascot for environmental concerns,” Oliquino said in a statement.

Oliquino, a village official in Lingayen, has been leading the campaign of several barangay leaders and residents of Pangasinan to stop the mining of black sand in the villages of Sabangan, Malimpuec and Estanza in Lingayen.

The provincial government issued on June 29, 2011, a small-scale mining permit to Alexandra Mining and Oil Venture Inc., allowing the firm to “extract and remove 50,000 metric tons of magnetite sand materials” every year from a 5.5-ha coastal area in Barangay Sabangan, Lingayen.

The DENR later ordered Alexandra to stop the extraction of sand, but the provincial government allowed another firm, Xypher Builders, to extract magnetite from the area for an 18-hole golf course. Inquirer Northern Luzon

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Tags: Mining , Miss Earth , Pangasinan , protest

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