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Cerilles vows to continue working against Paje confirmation

/ 06:29 PM October 18, 2012

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—For as long as Environment Secretary Ramon Paje fails to explain what a “special ores extraction permit” (SOEP) is and what its legal basis is, Zamboanga del Sur Governor Antonio Cerilles said he will do everything he can to prevent his confirmation by the Commission on Appointments.

“I will continue to block his appointment. I have always been consistent about this,” Cerilles said, indicating he will keep on filing complaints against Paje in the Commission on Appointments, or CA.

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Cerilles said that on Wednesday, he went to the CA to oppose Paje’s appointment anew because instead of answering his queries on the SOEP, Paje chose to ignore him. He said he wrote Paje twice but failed to get any response.

“Not once he bothered to write back and explain what this SOEP is,” said Cerilles, a former environment secretary and a former congressman.

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Cerilles said he wanted to know what the permit was all about and whether it has legal basis because in Zamboanga del Sur, a mining group got that document from DENR.

He said the issuance of SOEP to Lupah Piggegitawan has caused tension in the area.

“They went to the area and started their mining operation, encroaching in areas where there is an MPSA (minerals production sharing agreement). They extract without any ECC (environmental compliance certificate) and without any permit,” he said.

Cerilles said the tension in the area has been exacerbated by conflict between Lupa’s security agency and that of another firm.

Cerilles said Lupa has been claiming it is owned by indigenous people  but is “actually 99 percent owned by Filipino-Chinese from Banilad in Cebu City, who are represented Manuel Go.”

Cerilles said it appeared that Paje, who was environment undersecretary during President Gloria Arroyo’s time, was “playing around with environmental laws.”

“He violated the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and the People’s Small Scale Mining Act of 1991 and he does not deserved to be appointed as Secretary by the Commission of Appointments,” he said.

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He said he suspected that Paje invented the SOEP so he could accommodate small-scale miners’ groups such as Lupa, to the detriment of the   environment.

He said he submitted photos showing how dangerous small-scale mining is but these were largely ignored by Paje.

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