Latest Stories


People power guards Agusan mountain


AUTHORITIES dismantle mining shacks that were put up inside the Mt. Magdiwata watershed. CHRIS V. PANGANIBAN

SAN FRANCISCO, Agusan del Sur—Mt. Magdiwata, the only source of water in households here and a natural barrier against storms, is under threat again by the same people who abused it in 2010.

Residents sounded the alarm on the resurgence of illegal logging and illegal mining inside and near the watershed early this month after learning that poachers have become bolder.

In November 2010, some 4,000 residents went on a caravan to the foot of the mountain to call for a stop to illegal mining activities involving local businessmen in partnership with Chinese financiers within the buffer zone of the watershed in the guise of sand and gravel operations.

The protest actions came as illegal mining continued to be conducted with impunity by small-scale mining operator Judito Pintado in Sitio Sumogbong in Alegria and East Coast Mineral Resources in Barangay Mati which continued to operate despite an order to cease from the government.

The same areas are still being subjected to illegal mining involving Pintado and Chinese criminals who were caught in the act of illegal mining during separate raids by authorities this month.

Pintado is facing  cases of illegal mining and illegal logging in a local court filed by the San Francisco Water District (SFWD).

Mt. Magdiwata, a 1,658-hectare watershed with a height of 633 meters above sea level, was declared a permanent watershed by Presidential Proclamation No. 282 on Oct. 23, 1993.

It was the SFWD that exposed the resurgence of illegal logging and mining after its forest guards had reported seeing natural-grown falcatta trees felled inside the mountain and near  Sumogbong River.

Illegal mining also started to spread like a plague with 50 operations detected inside the watershed.

Prompted by mounting pressure for a call to action, a massive crackdown led by the local environment office and the police arrested nine illegal loggers caught in the act of cutting down trees and six Chinese miners involved in an illegal gold-mining operation using backhoes that destroyed the riverbanks of remote Mati village.

But the sincerity of authorities to enforce laws to protect the watershed is still under a cloud of doubt.

“How far can they go? Can they really catch the big fish?” asked a parishioner after listening to a warning from Fr. Artemio Jusayan at the end of Mass.

Jusayan has called on the faithful to be more vigilant in protecting the watershed. The priest expressed alarm when village officials in Alegria had passed a resolution allowing mining operations by Philsaga Mining Corp., two weeks before illegal loggers were arrested in Sitio Sumogbong.

“The people of this town must know. They should be consulted,” said Jusayan, adding that a disaster similar to the landslide that hit New Bataan in Compostela Valley during the onslaught of Typhoon “Pablo” is not a remote possibility.

A week after the priest’s concern was relayed to churchgoers, the village chair of Alegria, Solomon Rufila, issued a certification that logs believed to have been from illegally cut trees belonged to Pintado.

“We were caught by surprise,” said SFWD general manager Elmer Luzon.

The SFWD, with the help of police, soldiers and personnel from the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office, was transporting the seized logs for custody when it learned about the decision of Rufila to hold the logs in favor of Pintado.

The incident has drawn suspicion on the village official’s sincerity to be part of the continuing campaign to protect the mountain from poaching.

Rufila also agreed to the mining operations in exchange for a road.

The village council of Alegria is a member of Mt. Magdiwata Multi-Sectoral Task Force, which was organized by Mayor Jenny de Asis in 2010 in the wake of calls to protect the watershed.

A big part of Alegria’s area is covered by Philsaga’s 6,000-ha mineral production sharing agreement approved by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.

This came about when, early this year, the SFWD board of directors had passed a resolution strongly opposing mining operations and calling for the immediate cancellation of exploration and mining permits.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

More from this Column:

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: environment , Mining , Mt. Magdiwata , Mt. Magdiwata Multi-Sectoral Task Force , protest , watershed

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. 12 senators on Napoles ‘pork’ list, says Lacson
  2. Save the queen? Aide takes fall for Enrile, Gigi Reyes
  3. Palace prepared to charge its allies
  4. Senator’s kickback from pork bigger than those of Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – Lacson
  5. Napoles turnaround alarms whistle-blowers
  6. What Went Before: Malacañang allies alleged involvement in pork scam
  7. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
  8. Timeline: Napoles tell-all
  9. HK apology: Why Estrada and not Aquino?
  10. Cedric Lee’s cohort flies out of PH despite look-out order – De Lima
  1. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
  2. Gigi Reyes pins blame on aide
  3. Estrada: Gigi Reyes won’t testify vs JPE
  4. Bernice Lee arrested by NBI team
  5. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  6. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  7. Suspect in Vhong Navarro’s mauling wants to turn state witness – De Lima
  8. Reckless driver endangered lives of Aquino, entourage–report
  9. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  10. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  4. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  5. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  6. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  7. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  8. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  9. Hammer-wielding robbers cause chaos at Philippines’ Mall of Asia
  10. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima


  • Nepal officials go to Everest to try to end crisis
  • Escudero ready to defend self should name appear in Napoles’ list
  • Obama calls for peaceful end to island dispute
  • Russia not abiding by agreement on Ukraine—Obama
  • Magnitude 6.7 quake off British Columbia coast
  • Sports

  • Promoters Dela Hoya, Arum in talks for Pacquiao-Alvarez—report
  • Benzema guides Madrid to 1-0 win over Bayern
  • Suns’ Goran Dragic win NBA’s Most Improved Player award
  • Heat go up 2-0, hold off Bobcats 101-97
  • Ronaldo shakes off injury fears to play Bayern
  • Lifestyle

  • Photos explore dynamics of youths’ sexual identity
  • 12th Philippine Food Expo set at the World Trade Center
  • No tourist draw, Malang the croc will remain wild
  • The best flavors of summer in one bite, and more
  • Homemade yogurt, bread blended with pizza, even ramen
  • Entertainment

  • Has Ai Ai fallen deeply with ‘sireno?’
  • Sony developing live-action Barbie comedy
  • California court won’t review Jackson doctor case
  • Return of ‘Ibong Adarna’
  • Practical Phytos plans his future
  • Business

  • Facebook profits triple as mobile soars
  • Insular Honors Sales Performers at Testimonial Rites
  • Apple increases stock buyback, will split stock
  • Cost-recovery provisions for affected gencos urged
  • This time, BIR goes after florists
  • Technology

  • Enrile in Masters of the Universe, Lord of the Rings?
  • Top Traits of Digital Marketers
  • No truth to viral no-visa ‘chronicles’
  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 24, 2014
  • Talking to Janet
  • Respite
  • Bucket list
  • JPII in 1981: walking a tightrope
  • Global Nation

  • PH-HK relations repaired, but families of victims still being courted
  • Filipinos in Middle East urged to get clearance before returning
  • PH seeks ‘clearer assurance’ from US
  • China and rivals sign naval pact to ease maritime tensions
  • What Went Before: Manila bus hostage crisis
  • Marketplace