CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY —The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in Northern Mindanao filed on Friday illegal mining charges, mineral theft and use of banned items, such as mercury, against a Chinese national and two Filipinos in the city prosecutor’s office here.
The three men, Cheng You of Fujian, China, Antonio Escudero of Maramag, Bukidnon, and Jesser Baguio of Barangay (village) Tuburan, Cagayan de Oro City, were arrested on the same day.
Rex Monsanto, MGB regional director, said the three worked together and even operated a barge on the river, where they sift sand for gold.
Aside from the charges in connection with violation of the Mining Act of 1995, Cheng should also be investigated for being an undocumented alien by the Bureau of Immigration, Monsanto said.
He said the MGB believed that Cheng was among dozens of Chinese nationals employed by the Chinese-led KF Net Corp., one of the four companies that the agency had earlier sued for illegal mining, mineral theft and illegal exploration.
The other Chinese-operated companies were Philippine Long Sangda Mining Corp., South Ocean Mining Corp. and Yellow Stone Minerals and Development Corp.
The MGB had also filed separate charges against 15 people when it sued the four companies, including at least four Chinese nationals and two Koreans.
Sulog, a civil society organization here, lamented that illegal miners had persisted on Iponan River, and authorities were helpless against or have abetted them.
Celestino Ocio, secretary general of Sulog, said because of this, they wanted Environmental Management Bureau regional chief Abadullah Abubakar replaced for allegedly condoning illegal mining operations on the river by issuing quarry permits, which miners use for extracting gold.
The illegal mining activities on Iponan River were among the factors blamed for the devastation wrought by Tropical Storm “Sendong” here in 2011.
Councilor President Elipe, chair of the city council’s environment committee, admitted that the city government issued quarry permits to some companies, which, in turn, used them to mine gold.
A city official, who did not want to be identified for lack of authority to speak on the matter, also said the illegal mining activities on Iponan River had persisted because of protection from some village officials.
A television staff here backed the official’s claim by citing their February 2012 experience while filming a documentary on illegal mining activities on Iponan River.
The TV reporter said a village councilor of Tuburan had threatened to harm them unless they stopped filming and leave. Bobby Lagsa, Inquirer Mindanao