Gov’t task force told to seize black sand stockpile in Lingayen
MANILA, Philippines – The Inter-Agency Task Force against Illegal Mining chaired by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has been asked to investigate and facilitate the inventory and proper disposal of magnetite stockpile in Lingayen, Pangasinan, where alleged illegal black sand mining occurred.
In a two-page letter dated March 20 and received by De Lima last Monday, Lingayen resident Rolando Rea also appealed to the task force to help the dismantling of the concrete wall erected by the provincial government allegedly to hide the illegal black sand mining activities.
Rea is one of the complainants in an illegal black sand mining case in Pangasinan that recently led the Ombudsman to indict several local politicians for authorizing black sand mining on areas of Lingayen Gulf that have been designated environmentally critical areas and set aside for ecotourism.
“I am a 72-year old man who has gotten used to waking up every morning facing the Lingayen Beach, but now fear that the view of the sea that I enjoyed for so many years may no longer be experienced by the next generations,” Rea said in his letter.
“This view of the sea has been obstructed ever since the provincial government constructed a six-foot high and six-kilometer long concrete wall along the beachfront, supposedly to protect the proposed ecotourism area from squatters. But in reality, this wall was built to hide from the public view the stockpile of black sand in the area,” he added.
The ecotourism project itself has not started, Rea said.
Rea sought De Lima’s help on how to dispose of the stockpiles of illegally mined black sand in Lingayen and Sual as these could be totally smuggled out of the country. He also wanted DOJ assistance on how to legally tear down the wall that has obstructed the people’s view of the beach and access to it.
“Ibalik po natin ang dagat sa mata ng tao. For as long as this wall is not taken down, our community and our children will forever be staring at a wall and not at nature’s gift of the sea,” he said.
According to Rea, the alleged illegal mining activity, which happened from 2011 to 2013, was undertaken within the area of a proposed 18-hole golf-course project spanning the coastal barangays of Sabangan, Malimpuec, Capandanan and Estanza.
The magnetite stockpile has remained in Malimpuec, along with the heavy equipment used such as backhoes, trailers and trucks.
Rea also informed the DOJ chief that the concrete wall was erected without any building permit and without public consultation with the affected barangays. This has affected the livelihood of fisherfolk and other residents in the area.
He added that although there was a cease and desist order from the DENR on the illegal magnetite activity, about 1,000 metric tons of blacksand from the Lingayen stockpiles were transported to a private port in Sual, Pangasinan.
The task force is composed of the DOJ, Department of the Interior and Local Government, and Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
The complaint filed by Rea against the unlawful mining operations in Lingayen has already resulted in the dismissal of provincial administrator Rafael Baraan and Alvin Bigay, head of the Provincial Housing Urban Development Council Office, for grave misconduct.
In his letter to De Lima, Rea also cited an indictment order issued by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales against Pangasinan Governor Amado Espino and other local officials over the magnetite mining, which he said was “just one step (away) to rendering justice for the people and the environment we live in.”
“As you once said, ‘We owe it to the future generations to act on this now, not later, not tomorrow, but now,'” Rea said.
Copies of the letter were also given to Senator Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on environment; Interior Secretary Mar Roxas; and Environment Secretary Ramon Paje.
Rea earlier appealed to the DENR to cancel the environmental compliance certificate of the golf course project as “golf courses are foremost environmentally critical projects and must not be established in an environmentally critical area like the Lingayen Gulf.”
He pointed out that former President Fidel Ramos declared the Lingayen Gulf as an environmentally critical area through Proclamation No. 1258 way back in 1998.
In 2011, the provincial government contracted two companies, Alexandra Mining and Oil Ventures Inc. and Xypher Builders Inc., to mine the coastal areas for black sand or magnetite. A small mining permit and ore export permit were issued to Xypher Builders, purportedly to remove black sand to enable grass to grow in the golf course area.
Rea said Xypher quarried five hectares, creating “deep pits” in the coastal area.
Aside from the concrete wall, Rea said the provincial government also constructed a road outside of the walled area, which was also not included in the components of the project covered by the environmental compliance certificate. SFM/ AC
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