By Ben Rosario
An investigation into the alleged illegal black sand mining activities in the Cagayan River has been included as a priority activity of the House Committee on Natural Resources.
Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, committee chairman, said reports indicated that local provincial and municipal officials in Cagayan have issued strong appeals to the government to stop the dredging activities but have failed to get a positive response.
The House panel will summon the management of the Pacific Offshore Exploration Inc. (POEI) and Cagayan officials in the hearings that will be conducted.
Barzaga filed House Resolution No. 267 proposing a congressional inquiry into the dredging activities being carried out by POEI in the Cagayan River as part of magnetite mining activities.
“Sadly, in the Philippines, although we have a huge deposit of magnetite, the same are directly shipped to other countries with little or no value-added,” said Barzaga.
According to Barzaga the government has failed to maximize the profits that could be derived from the mining activities even as firms involved have exploited this situation.
Cagayan provincial officials have been complaining against the mining activities in their localities which have apparently been sanctioned by the government.
Barzaga said environmental group and provincial officials will have to explain to the committee their complaints against black sand mining.
“Environmental groups are of the opinion that black sand mining are often destructive and poorly managed,” noted Barzaga.
These groups, Barzaga stated, have also claimed that black sand and other coastal ecosystems associated with the beach and a loss of protection from storm surges associated with tropical cyclones and tsunamis.”
In calling for a probe into the mining activities, the Cavite lawmaker cited newspaper reports stating that the Cagayan provincial board has called on President Duterte to stop the mining activities, most of which are being carried out by Chinese firms.
Provincial officials also chided mining firms for failing to secure environmental compliance certificates and other permits.
The Aparri municipal council has also adopted a resolution urging the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to issue a cease-and-desist order against the POEI.
“With the absence of the dredging plan and a dredging permit, it is very apparent that there is no prior assessment of the possible environmental impact of the dredging activity despite the fact that there will be pernicious effects resulting in environmental degradation,” the municipal council stated.
However, Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba has reportedly denied that the dredging activities in Cagayan river is part of a mining operations of POEI.