Nalzaro: Alcoy mining: ‘Johnny-come-lately’


I WILL not dwell on the legal aspect on the extraction of dolomite minerals by a big mining firm in Pugalo, Alcoy, Cebu and the “nourishment project” on Manila Bay where the materials used to artificially beautify the baywalk area come from Alcoy’s natural resources. I presumed that everything is aboveboard because, first and foremost, the two mining firms have been allowed to operate for the last 40 years.

While on the rehabilitation of Manila Bay, no less than the Supreme Court (SC) had given it a go signal. On Dec. 18, 2016, the SC issued a mandamus on Manila Bay (GR 171947) directing 13 government agencies to clean up and rehabilitate, preserve, restore and maintain its waters to SB level (Class B seawaters per Water Classification Tables under DENR Administrative Order 34 (1990) to make them fit for swimming, skin diving and other forms of contact recreation.

Now, there is legal matter that would probably crop up as a group of environmentalists claimed that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) violated Presidential Decree 1586, or the Environmental Impact Statement System Law, and DENR Administrative Order 2003-30, the agency’s own implementing rules for environmental compliance certificate (ECC).

But DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said the project is a “nourishment project,” which is not covered by the Environmental Impact Statement System. But the group insists that under the said regulations, a project like the baywalk, located in an environmentally critical area, requires an ECC. This is a legal matter that the court has to resolve.

On the safety of the mineral, even the DENR and the Department of Health (DOH) seem unable to agree on the matter. The DOH claims that dolomite is a hazardous mineral, while the DENR said it’s not harmful to human beings. Which is which? Dolomite is an anhydrous (no water content, but can absorb water.--OpEd) carbonate mineral composed of calcium magnesium carbonate. The term is also used for sedimentary carbonate rock composed mostly of the mineral dolomite. Its alternative name is dolostone.

But may I ask this question. Why is it only now that our environmental agencies and provincial officials are acting on the matter? Had the “nourishment project” on Manila Bay not been exposed in the media, this issue would not become controversial when, as I said, that mining operations undertaken by Dolomite Mining Corp. (DMC) and the Philippine Mining Service Corp. (PMSC) have been there for the last 40 years. Mahulog man ni sa akong paboritong kanta nga “Bakit Ngayon Ka Lang.”

Now, since this has become a national issue, everybody, especially the kibitzers, have joined in the fray. This also includes the so-called “environmentalists.” Gov. Gwen Garcia issued a cease and desist order (CDO) for the transport of dolomite, but not for the operations of the mining firm. But where were these people before this issue became a national headline? What about past administrations? Everybody is now worried about the people of Alcoy. They are afraid that another City of Naga incident is in the offing because of the continued mining operations. A few years ago, a huge landslide claimed several lives in a mountain barangay in the City of Naga because of massive mining.

Are these concerned people aware of the provisions of Republic Act 7942, or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, which sets the guidelines for mining operations in the country? Mining has contributed so much to the national coffers, boosting the country’s economy and creating more job opportunities, especially in the countryside.

Alcoy Mayor Michael Angelo Sestoso said that his local government unit and even the Province of Cebu did not receive any share from the mining operations. Are they not aware of the provision of the 1987 Constitution? Section 7, Article 10 (Local Government) states: “That the local government units (LGUs) are entitled to an equitable share in the proceeds of the utilization and development of the national wealth within their jurisdiction and the Local Government Code of 1991 provides that LGUs have the duty and authority to protect and co-manage the environment and enhance the right of the people to a balanced ecology.”

This is also properly laid down and stipulated in Executive Order 79, signed by then President Benigno Aquino III in 2012, “institutionalizing and implementing reforms in the Philippine mining sector providing policies and guidelines to ensure environmental protection and responsible mining in the utilization of mineral resources.”

For me, those who are showing concern now are Johnny-come-lately.


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