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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hiding a Giant Disaster

The Black Sand Mining in Ilocos Sur remain a bigger enigmatic threat and contention among residents and Philippine citizens in general after the Region 1 Mining and Geosciences Bureau led by Engr. Carlos Tayag conducted a media forum in June 28 2012 at Heritage Resort in Caoayan. Some of the attending members of the media claimed first-hand account of the soil erosion along the coastal areas of Sta. Catalina, "We have lost as wide as about 10 meters during the activity, an unprecedented one in my lifetime as resident," shared one of the broadcasters during the forum.

The MGB team insisted that the occurrence has nothing to do with actual mining, as they insisted that the permit given AltaMina Exploration and Resources, Inc was only for exploration purposes. They also indicated that an investigation was conducted after complaints were received at their office and found nothing that would indict the mysterious mining company. When pressed, the MGB group said that the Singsons are not incorporators of AltaMina, a Quezon City-based corporation, an MGB officer said with a grin.  The attendees insisted the vessels and equipment used were printed with Chinese characters and the MGB team rejoined that the project was sanctioned by Malacanang.

It has also been described as small scale, although the media cannot fathom what the Bureau meant as another mining activity is also active in Narvacan. Incidentally, various sectors and entities already sought to stop the activity, but the downplaying done by the MGB during the conference have not been convincing.

Inconsistencies despite the thorough presentation provided by the speakers were noted.

First is the "cradle to the grave" claim as role of the MGB for mining and groundwater concerns of the citizenry. The team admitted to be powerless in all forms of apprehension although another claimed that they can deputize their ranks to investigate, impound, and execute affidavit for court purposes. Second  is their hazard mapping questioned also by members of the media to be inconsistent in purpose as initially, it was said to be a guide for all citizens of the Republic and yet, MGB was the first to violate its use as already deemed hazardous areas are compromised. This is with regards to MGB's claim that 700 meters is the safety buffer for all shoreline mining activities. Obviously, the areas shown on the videos (links) above cannot justify the MGB claims.

The MGB also re-routed the issue to the Abra River and delta in Caoayan and Vigan City as the threat that the government and local sectors should focus on. The team implied for the need to re-trace a straighter path of the Abra River  and to relocate the barangays affected by the plan. Geologist Efren Penaflor warned a possible repeat of the Cagayan de Oro and Iligan flooding. Construction and mining activities, however, seemed to be the order of the warning instead of more viable, less nature-invasive approach such as reforestation and improvement of flood-control vegetation in the areas. Apparently, sand and gravel quarrying is a more attractive option for the justification of digging and diking to be conducted.

The towns that have been found to have black sand or magnetite minerals include San Vicente, Santa Catalina, Caoayan, and Santo Domingo. All LGUs, according to the MGB were informed and they insisted the mining company or companies they issued permits followed requirements.

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