EMB seeks probe of transport of black sand
MANILA, Philippines—A firm contracted by the Pangasinan government to develop a golf course in Lingayen town is in trouble with environment officials for the alleged unauthorized transport of a stockpile of 1,000 metric tons of black sand to a port facility.
The regional director of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) recommended the denial of the application for an environmental clearance certificate (ECC) of Xypher Builders Inc. to mine and process black sand, or magnetite, in Lingayen due to a number of violations.
In a March 11 memorandum to Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, EMB Regional Director Joel Salvador further recommended an investigation into the owner of the private facility in the port of neighboring Sual town, where the stockpile of black sand was discovered.
Based on the investigation of Salvador’s office, they received an anonymous telephone call on March 3 reporting the alleged unauthorized operation of a black sand mining and processing project in Lingayen and the transport of black sand from the plant to an unidentified nearby port.
The probe indicated that Xypher Builders Inc. had been contracted to develop a golf course in Lingayen. Thus, it extracted magnetite sand from the area and sent it to the mineral processing plant in nearby Barangay Malimpec to produce black sand.
“Both the proposed golf course and mineral extraction/processing projects were directed to cease and desist from operating for failure to secure their respective environmental compliance certificates. Penalties of P50,000 each were paid for said violation,” Salvador said.
But Xypher Builders Inc. later successfully secured an ECC for its golf course project, but the separate application for the mineral processing plant was not granted.
“Meanwhile, Xypher Builders Inc. had produced a stockpile of black sand within its plant premises before it stopped operations following our directive,” Salvador said.
On Feb. 7, Salvador’s office received a new application for an ECC for the operations of the same mineral processing plant from Xypher Builders Inc., represented this time by its new president, Belen D. Rocheford, with address at No. 39 Carmel Ave., Project 6, Quezon City.
“However, the processing is held in abeyance pending submission of additional information regarding the sources of raw alluvial materials/magnetite sand, and the completion of this investigation,” he said.
A site inspection on Feb. 13, in connection with the processing of the application for an ECC, revealed the “already corroding and disassembled plant processing facilities and the ongoing construction of a two-story staff house,” Salvador said.
“Not reported though was the old stockpile of black sand observed at a distance within the plant premises,” he added.
The inspectors later found another stockpile of approximately 1,000 MT of black sand inside the private port facility owned by Jose Chua Lim in Sitio Mangas, Barangay Bacquioen, Sual.
“While an ECC is required, aside from other permits to operate being issued by the office for the operations of the mineral processing plant, including the marine loading facilities, which Xypher Builders Inc. failed to secure before transporting the black sand to a private pier in Sual, approval of its application for an ECC should be denied,” Salvador said.
“Mr. Jose Chua Lim should be further investigated for possible violation of the ECC issued for the operations of his private port facilities,” he added.
The Inquirer tried but failed to get a comment from Secretary Paje.
Black sand is a magnetic black-gray mineral with various industrial uses, including the manufacture of steel.
Top Pangasinan officials face charges at the Ombudsman for allegedly allowing the black sand mining in the guise of a golf course project.