Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has asked the Senate Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change to investigate the Cagayan Offshore Magnetite Mining project due to its reported negative environmental and social impacts to local communities and ecosystems in the province of Cagayan.
In filing Senate Resolution (SR) 687, De Lima said the government is duty-bound to protect the lives and livelihood of its citizens over all transactions and contracts, particularly the agreements it has entered into with individuals and entities concerning the coastal areas of Cagayan and other black sand mining areas.
“Government measures and policies must anticipate, prevent, and address the root causes of environmental degradation. The destruction of the environment, more particularly, its natural defenses like sand bars which help protect from strong waves and storm surges during typhoons poses increased disaster threats and risks to the surrounding communities,” she said.
“Swift and effective intervention must therefore be conducted to ensure the protection of the environment and the safety of our countrymen,” she added.
De Lima is the chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development.
In early December 2020, it was reported that the government has authorized the first large-scale offshore mining in the country which was set to begin operations in Cagayan in January 2021.
A recent press release said JDVC Resources Corporation, a majority-owned subsidiary of Apollo Global Capital, was ready to proceed with its offshore mining operations after securing the necessary permits from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Various environmental groups rejected the project, explaining in a position paper dated January 25 that it poses geologic hazards and hazards to other marine resources and ecosystems and increases vulnerability to armed conflict, among others.
Meanwhile, De Lima said it is “reasonable” for Cagayan citizens to be more reluctant to endorse a project that they perceive will destroy the environment and also put their homes and livelihoods at higher risk of severe flooding events, considering that they have only recently begun to recover from the massive flooding in November 2020.
“The recent record-level flooding in Cagayan brought about by typhoon Ulysses may be an indication of a worsening trend rather than a statistical aberration,” she said.
“It is imperative that the project’s proponents and other concerned government agencies are able to effectively communicate and actively consult with the people of Cagayan so that they are able to make informed decisions on matters concerning public health and safety and other environmental hazards,” she added.
Citing the lack of conclusive data, De Lima likewise stressed that it is prudent to conduct a more comprehensive study of the impacts of black sand mining in the Philippines in general and specifically, a thorough review of the Cagayan Offshore Magnetite Mining Project.
“All activities which tend to disturb or destroy the environment must always be preceded by meticulous assessment of their consequences. Environmental impact studies shall also be conducted to aid both the public and private sectors in chartering the course of the activities that involve and affect the environment,” she appealed.
“An in-depth study on how to restore the ecosystem must be launched to ensure that rehabilitation measures are put in place to save these areas from further destruction and erosion,” she added.
De Lima recalled that during her stint as justice secretary, she created a task force led by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to lead a crackdown against several illegal black sand mining operators in Cagayan and Ilocos Sur.
The move led to the filing of charges against several individuals.