Ebdane hit for small-mining permits
OLONGAPO CITY—A mining firm has assailed Zambales Governor Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. for allegedly allowing small-scale mining firms in the province to gather and export the firm’s chromite stockpile in Masinloc, Zambales.
In a statement, Benicio Eusebio, the president of Consolidated Mines Inc. (CMI), accused Ebdane of abusing his authority to issue small-scale mining permits that encroached on the Sitio Coto mineral reservation of CMI, which has been conducting business in the country for more than 20 years.
“The value of CMI’s losses so far … may soon double at the rate the chromite stockpiles are being depleted with the use of backhoes and huge cargo trucks,” Eusebio said.
In a separate statement in February, CMI said more than 35,000 metric tons of chromite, valued at P81 million, had been hauled by six small-scale mining firms to a newly constructed port owned by another firm.
Eusebio said three vessels loaded with chromite, totaling 20,000 MT, had sailed out to China.
The Inquirer tried to get Ebdane’s reply to CMI’s accusation but he and his information officers and staff members neither took calls nor replied to text messages.
But in an interview at the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City in February, Ebdane said he had no stake in mining activities in his province, for which his administration has been criticized.
His only task, he said, was to push operators to secure environmental licenses, including those for black-sand operations.
“They’ve been trying to pin me down about the operations of large-scale mining. But large-scale mining is beyond the authority of the governor. I told the people if they don’t comply with environmental requirements, then so be it, we close it. It’s okay with me because mining offers little benefit to the province,” said Ebdane, a former Philippine National Police chief.
He said the provincial government received only 2 percent from large-scale mining proceeds and only the national government benefited from the operations.
Small-scale mining activities, he said, have been helping improve the economy, particularly the retrieval of black sand for export.
“We have no problem like [the black sand quarrying in Pangasinan, La Union and the Ilocos] because for us black sand is waste and pollutes the rivers,” he said.
CMI said the problem started in November last year when Ebdane issued several small-scale mining permits, supposedly without clearances from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), as required by the People’s Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991 (Republic Act No. 7076).
“What’s strange was the permits covered areas where CMI’s huge chromite stockpiles are located, which are well within the CMI’s exclusive mineral reservation,” Eusebio said.
Documents showed that the DENR had issued cease-and-desist orders (CDOs) for at least five small-scale miners conducting operations in the Coto mines in January and February.
Lormelyn Claudio, the Central Luzon director of the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau, had stopped their operations for lack of environmental compliance certificates, violating the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 1586, or the Philippine Environmental Impact Statement System Law.
Eusebio said the permits granted to small-scale miners were also declared illegal by the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board headed by Danilo Uykieng, also regional director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).
But Eusebio said this did not stop the small-scale miners from gathering the chromite stockpile.
“The cancellation did not affect the daily plunder of the chromite stockpiles. Neither that nor the issuance of CDOs by the MGB and the EMB stopped the small-scale miners from slicing off big chunks of the stockpiles,” he said.
“As a legitimate corporation that dutifully pays its taxes, we certainly resent the shabby treatment from the office of the governor,” Eusebio said.—Robert Gonzaga
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