Are mining areas inside protected zones? | Inquirer News

Are mining areas inside protected zones?

/ 08:18 PM December 24, 2011

(Last of two parts)

Environmental groups and nongovernment organizations have warned that several mining applications and operations on Panay and Guimaras Islands threaten areas that are environmentally critical or inhabited by indigenous peoples.

In Antique, residents of Barangay San Roque in Libertad and neighboring communities are opposing the mining applications and operations, especially those that they claim to be within or near the 12,009-hectare North Western Panay Peninsula (NWPP).


Then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Proclamation No. 186 on April 15, 2002, declaring the NWPP a protected site. The peninsula covers the towns of Nabas, Malay and Buruanga in Aklan, and Libertad and Pandan towns in Antique.


According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the NWPP is home to diverse and endemic wildlife, including the Tarictic Hornbill, Negros Bleeding Heart Pigeon and Serpent Eagle. It is considered one of the remaining significant stretches of low-elevation rain forest in Western Visayas.

Leo Van Juguan, regional director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), said that the small-scale mining projects in Libertad are found outside the NWPP.

But in a public hearing conducted by the provincial board on November 11, Provincial Environment and Resources Officer Ildefonso Tulliva said the mining area of Teodoro Loriega (not Noriega as earlier reported) falls within the buffer zone of the NWPP. The mining sites of Jesry and Jinky Palmares are outside but near the protected area, he said.

The MPSA (Mineral Production Sharing Agreement) site of Tudor Mineral Exploration Corp. which is being surveyed by JC Hartman Mines Inc. falls within the NWPP, but Juguan said the MPSA was issued before the declaration of the protected area.

Proponents and supporters of mining, including local officials, have dismissed the opposition to the projects.

Libertad Mayor Norberto Raymundo, who also chairs the Northwest Panay Biodiversity Management Council, said most residents were supporting the projects in San Roque and only “outsiders” were protesting. “The mining projects are covered by permits and are guided by provisions set by the DENR and other government agencies,” he said.


Raymundo said the mining operations would provide livelihood to at least 200 people. Libertad, a fourth-class municipality (annual income: P25 million-P35 million), has only around 150 ha of arable land.

Every year, many poor residents, who earn mainly from copra, are forced to work as seasonal sugar workers (“sacadas”) in Negros Occidental because of lack of employment opportunities, he said.

The mayor said revenues from the mining operations would benefit the residents and the town. The tax amounting to P16 per cubic meter of extracted iron ore will be divided among the provincial government (30 percent), municipality (30 percent) and barangay (30 percent).

Mayor Jonathan Tan of the neighboring town of Pandan said he was supporting “responsible mining.” He insisted that mining projects in Libertad should not be feared because there was no processing and toxic chemicals were not being used.

“Many people are misinformed and when they hear of mining, it’s already bad for them,” Tan said.

Tan considers minerals and natural resources as “God’s gifts” which should be put to good use.

“We need mining for almost everything we need, like pens, watches, electrical appliances and other necessities,” he said. He dismissed critics as “closed-minded.”

But many people in San Roque and in neighboring areas believe otherwise.

Aguida Dugang, 66, said that when the mountains were mined, erosion and siltation would occur and could destroy their river and affect their livelihood.

“Even if there will be work in mining, all of us cannot work there. And will the income be worth it?” she said.

Antimining resolutions

Mel Cabalo, former San Roque council member, said residents had blocked the mining operations of Tudor Mineral Exploration starting in 1997 and the council had even passed a resolution declaring the company persona non grata.

The opposition prompted the barangay (village) council to issue a resolution on October 16 recalling its Sept. 16 endorsement of the mining projects.

The barangay chair, Jimmy Roberto, said the council had earlier supported the projects because of perceived benefits. But he said more than 200 residents had signed a petition against the projects.

A similar resolution against mining activities was adopted on November 5 by the barangay (village) council of the neighboring village of Patria in Pandan.

The Diocese of San Jose, Antique, has joined the protests. “The people do not want it and we support them. If it is allowed in Libertad, it could affect neighboring barangays and towns,” Bishop Jose Romeo Lazo said.

Growing opposition

Antimining streamers and posters have been displayed in churches in Antique.

The nongovernment Bioresource Conservation Trust for the Philippines Inc. has called on Gov. Exequiel Javier to revoke the mining permits in Libertad.

Outside Antique, opposition to mining has also grown.

Guimaras officials led by brothers Representative JC Rahman Nava and Governor Felipe Nava, both physicians, have consistently opposed large-scale mining on the island.

In Capiz, residents in hinterland villages of the towns of Maayon, Dumarao, Cuartero and Pontevedra have held protest actions against the operations of several mining firms, including Teresa Marble Corp. and Quarry Ventures Philippines Inc.

John Heredia, convenor of the Capiz Environmental Protection Alliance, said mining operations in the province had significantly increased despite Provincial Board Ordinance No. 6, which was passed in 1999.

The ordinance imposed a 15-year moratorium on large-scale mining in the province and was amended three years later extending the moratorium to 50 years. It has been hailed by environmental advocates as a first of its kind in the country.

Antimining advocates have blamed the approval of Provincial Board Resolution No. 69 for the intensified mining activities in Capiz. The resolution allows mineral exploration in areas granted exploration permits or MPSAs.

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Oscar Cabanayan of the DENR’s Environment and Management Bureau said mining would not be stopped as long as companies comply with the legal requirements and abide by the provisions of the ECCs.

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