Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima on Friday, Oct. 1 called for a Senate investigation on the detrimental and disastrous effects of the recently approved black sand mining project in Lingayen Gulf as critics tagged it as an ‘’environmental disaster.’’
De Lima filed Senate Resolution (SR) 920 directing the Senate Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change to investigate the negative environmental and socioeconomic impact of the project on the surrounding coastal areas in Pangasinan.
“The State is duty-bound to protect the lives and livelihood of its citizens and uphold existing environmental laws and polices over any and all transactions and contracts it has entered into with individuals and entities concerning these environmentally critical areas (ECAs),” she said.
“Activities which tend to negatively impact and destroy the environment must always be preceded by meticulous assessment of their consequences. Environmental impact studies should 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 added.
The ‘’massive’’ offshore black sand mining project that would run for the next 25 years in Lingayen Gulf was recently approved, stirring protests from the local communities in Pangasinan province, calling it an “environmental monster.”
Provincial Board Member Von Mark Mendoza expressed alarm after an official of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) informed provincial officials that the project’s proponent, Iron Ore, Gold and Vanadium Resources (Phils.) Inc., would be extracting 25 million tons of black sand annually.
According to a document posted on the EMB website, Malacañang approved the project, which is covered by Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement No. 07-2020-IOMR.
The agreement allows the conduct of large-scale exploration, development and commercial utilization of minerals found within the areas where Vanadium Resources has obtained the exclusive right to extract magnetite sand.
“There is need to ensure that any possible permit issued by the government takes into account the totality of impact of black sand mining to the eco-system and the community and that government officials who sign off on the permits undertake to hold themselves fully accountable for ignoring clear red flags in the mining projects,” she added.
In a 2016 study, entitled “Characterization of Black Sand Mining Activities and Their Environmental Impacts in the Philippines Using Remote Sensing,” researchers note that black sand mining disturbs marine and coastal ecosystems and increases erosion and associated geohazards and warn that coastal erosion often continued to affect the areas even decades after cessation of the mining activities.
Further controversy surrounding the mining industry was stirred when, in a move intended to spur the pandemic-ridden economy, President Duterte issued Executive Order (EO) 130 last April 15 which lifted a nearly decade-long moratorium on new mining agreements.
Last May, De Lima filed SR 720 directing the appropriate Senate committee to conduct an inquiry into the said mining operation in Zambales as well as a systematic review of all pending and ongoing large-scale mining projects in the Philippines to determine their compliance with relevant environmental laws, regulations, guidelines and procedures.
During her stint as justice secretary, De Lima created a task force led by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to lead a crackdown on several illegal black sand mining operators in Cagayan and Ilocos Sur. The move led to the filing of charges against several individuals.