Case of illegal Chinese miners marked ‘handle with care’

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A mined-out area and an abandoned processing plant in Barangay Punta in Aparri town serve as proof for residents of how black sand mining operations render this landscape barren. MELVIN GASCON/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON

APARRI, Cagayan—With the tense relationship with China in mind, the government has opted to take it easy on 18 Chinese workers,  who were arrested here by National Bureau of Investigation agents last week for alleged illegal mining.

Eva Antiporda, alien control officer of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) here, said her agency has been making a conscious effort not to mishandle the case of the Chinese workers, concerned that a single mistake could further worsen diplomatic relations between the Philippines and China.

“We do not want this already-tense situation to escalate with our improper handling of this sensitive issue,” she said.

NBI agents arrested Thursday Chinese workers of Huaxia Trading and Mining Inc. for allegedly extracting magnetite sand within the 200-meter “no-go zone” in the coastal village of Dodan here.

On Friday, they also arrested nine more Chinese workers who were constructing a mineral processing plant in nearby Paddaya village.

Antiporda said the NBI turned over the Chinese to the BI for verification of their immigration status.

“No charges were immediately filed against them,” Antiporda said.

Manuel Mamba, chief of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office and head of the newly formed Task Force on Illegal Blacksand Mining in Cagayan, said the NBI has failed to file charges against the Chinese because of time constraints.

“The NBI opted for direct filing [with the Department of Justice] on Monday, as there was no more time [to do it] last Friday,” he said.

Antiporda said five of the 18 Chinese did not have complete alien working permits. Verification of the others’ records is still ongoing, she added.

Since their arrest, the Chinese were allowed to roam the premises of the BI office in Barangay Punta during the day and spend the nights at Ryan Hotel in downtown Aparri.

This prompted groups opposing black sand mining activities here to question why the NBI allowed the Chinese to be released from detention because of their failure to subject them to inquest proceedings.

An inquest is the procedure where a public prosecutor would determine whether a person who was arrested without a warrant could be held by authorities.

“When they arrested Cyber Perling, the NBI was so quick to file charges against her and detain her. But with these Chinese, why did they not file charges, even when they could have brought them for inquest during the weekend?” said a member of a group opposing black sand mining here.

Cyber Perling is the moniker given to anti-black sand mining crusader Esperlita Garcia, who was arrested by NBI agents last year over a libel case filed by an official in Gonzaga town, where Chinese companies are conducting magnetite mining. Melvin Gascon, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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