Still a “No,” Cantilan tells MarcVentures Mining

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/03 August) – The local government of Cantilan in Surigao del Sur has denied for the second time a mining firm’s application for a business permit, claiming it has no legal basis for its application.

Cantilan Mayor Genito Guardo, in a letter to the lawyer of the Marcventures Mining Development Corporation (MMDC) said records at the Sanggunian Bayan show that MMDC “acquired its Certificate of Registration as a corporate entity with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) 43 days after the original Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) holder, Ventura Timber Corporation (VTC) and MMDC signed the Deed of Assignment transferring mineral rights to MMDC. This puts MMDC’s right as an assignee under the cloak of fictitious representation from the very beginning.”

Inset Map Courtesy of Wikipedia“Furthermore, records also show that Mr. Mario G. Vijungco was authorized by the MMDC Board of Directors to represent MMDC in the Deed of Assignment (DA) 13 years after the signing of the Deed of Assignment,” the mayor said.

Guardo said the transfer of mineral rights to MMDC was void ab initio, because VTC holds a cancelled MPSA.

MMDC has a nickel mining project in Cantilan and is a subsidiary of Marcventures Mineral Holdings (MARC otherwise known as AJO.net) whose stocks are actively traded at the Philippine Stock Exchange, a press statement from Baywatch said.

Emma Hotchkiss, Baywatch President told the 1st Caraga Media Summit last Saturday that VTC entered into a Deed of Assignment with MMDC on December 7, 1994 but MMDC  was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission in 1995.

Since the grant of their MPSAs, VTC and Carac-an Development Corporation (CDC) both owned by Vijungco, “grossly violated the conditions of the Memorandum and disregarded requirements stated in the conditions. VTC and CDC admitted that they did not have any mining activities in the area from 1995 until 2004, thus, abandoning the said mining areas.” Hotchkiss said.

On February 1, 2005, then Environment Secretary Michael Defensor issued Memorandum Order No. 2005-03 declaring both MPSAs as “abandoned/non-performing tenements” and therefore “cancelled” because there was “no record of actual mineral production; non-payment of fiscal obligations; non-submission of required reports; and non-filing of declaration of mining feasibility study in gross violation of the conditions of the grant of MPSA.”

On May 31, 2005, VTC filed a Motion for Reconsideration, while CDC filed its own on July 1, 2005.

On February 27, 2007, then Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes reinstated the MPSAs of VTC and CDC.

On March 23, 2009, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Presidential Proclamation No. 1747 declaring the portions of the public domain of Alamio, Buyaan, Carac-an, Panikian Rivers and Sipangpang Falls, situated in the municipalities of Carrascal, Cantilan and Madrid, Province of Surigao del Sur and in the municipalities of Jabonga, Santiago, and Cabadbaran, Province of Agusan del Norte, as watershed forest reserves.”

The area comprising 43,601 hectares was declared as critical watershed forest reserves subject to prior rights and without prejudice to the rights of the indigenous peoples and other related rules and regulations.

P1747, however, stipulates that  “Any valid contract, permit or license for the extraction or utilization of natural resources already existing prior to the Proclamation shall, subject to national interest and to existing laws, rules and regulations, be respected until their termination.”

“This clause continues to concern the pro-environment groups since the DENR continues to allow the mining company to continue its operations despite the numerous resolutions issued by the Protected Area Management Board to (then) Environment Secretary Lito Atienza to issue a cease and desist order to MMDC pending delineation of the watershed area,”  Hotchkiss noted.

MMDC lawyer Noel Libres, who had sought the mayor’s reconsideration, explained that  the local government unit’s ordinances and resolutions against mining are contrary to the Philippine Mining Act. He also cited Section 17, of RA 7160  (Local Government Code of 1991) which  provides that the “enforcement of forestry laws, pollution control law, small scale mining law, and other laws on the protection of the environment, shall be pursuant to national policies and subject to the supervision, control and review of the DENR.”

But Mayor Guardo, who ran on an anti-mining platform, said the LGU has the ultimate mandate over the approval of the proposed mining project. He cited DENR Memorandum Circular No. 2008-08, dated December 24, 2008, entitled: “Clarification of the Role of LGUs in the Philippine EIS System in Relation to MC 2007-08”, particularly, paragraphs 2 and 3 thereof.

Paragraph 2 states that the issuance of the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) “is not an automatic approval of the project. Through the EIA Process critical issues that should be addressed by the various agencies are identified for guidance on environmental considerations of final approving entities.”

Paragraph 3 states that although LGU endorsement of the proposed projects is not mandatory in the processing of the ECC applications, “it should be inevitably be required and subsumed under the local government’s permitting requirements where the results of the EIA and recommendations in the ECC should be considered along with other factors. It is believed that the LGU has the ultimate mandate over the approval of proposed projects. Hence, the result of the EIA process is an input to the LGU endorsement of proposed projects.”

Upon receipt of MMDC’s business permit application, the mayor inspected the mining site along with members of Baywatch, and found the mining company was in full blown operation with three stockyards full of ore that were ready to ship.

The Baywatch press statement said the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) authorized MMDC to start its Development Phase even without endorsements from the Cantilan LGU and the Sanggunian Panlalawigan. MGB’s OIC Basadre issued the mining company permission to proceed to Development Stage citing company receipt of an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) and endorsements from Brgy. Cabangahan, where the mining site is located, and from then Surigao del Sur Gov. Vicente Pimentel.  The law requires two out of three LGU endorsements before it can proceed to the Development Stage.”

‘The governor is not the Sanggunian Panlalawigan,” a member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan said when an MMDC official told members in a hearing that they have secured an endorsement from Pimentel. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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