CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/27 March) – More than two months after he reprimanded them, Archbishop Antonio Ledesma said today his appeal to put an end on destructive hydraulic mining along Iponan River has fallen into deaf ears among city officials led by Mayor Vicente Emano.
Ledesma, prelate of the Cagayan de Oro Archdiocese, said city officials continue to maintain business-as-usual attitude towards the illegal mining issue despite proof that foreigners have continued flushing gold along Iponan River.
“What more proof do they need? There are aerial photos taken on the illegal mining in Iponan River. There are video footages,” Ledesma said during a press conference on Sendong Emergency Response updates this morning.
Last month, councilors identified with Emano have blocked a move by opposition politicians to legislate an ordinance seeking an end to the mining in Iponan.
Councilor President Elipe said there is no sufficient data to support that the mining in Iponan contributed in the destruction of communities living beside Cagayan de Oro during the Dec. 17 Sendong flashfloods.
Last Jan. 13, Ledesma reprimanded the city officials and issued at the same time a call to civil society groups to launch a campaign to put an end to mining in Iponan River.
This morning, Ledesma lauded the Misamis Oriental provincial government and the municipal government of Opol for leading police raids aimed to put an end on the illegal hydraulic mining activities along Iponan River.
More than 15 hydraulic pumps were seized in two separate operations in Iponan River, which is along the shared boundaries of Cagayan de Oro and Opol.
“The provincial government and Opol are much better,” the bishop noted. “Until now the city officials have been silent on the mining issue. I say it again – it is unconscionable for city officials to adopt a business-as-usual attitude on the illegal mining activities along Iponan River,” he added.
Ledesma reiterated his call for the establishment of a multi-sectoral body to monitor the mining in Iponan River.
The city government earlier said there are only two mining firms operating in Iponan but an opposition councilor disclosed that City Hall approved nine mining licenses using “special permits.”
Councilor Edgar Cabanlas identified seven mining firms issued such special permits – Dinamet Mining Corporation, Yellow Stone Development Corporation, SNS Metal Trading Corp., White Pearl Asia Corporation, Perfect World Mining Corporation, Javez Hinterland Resources and Cagayan de Oro Finest Metals. Two individuals identified as Maria Victor Lagbas and Virgilio Agus were also issued the same permit allegedly by Mayor Vicente Emano.
A source told MindaNews that many of these firms are financed by Korean businessmen who came here to invest in the gold mining business.
Daniel Belderoan, director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in Region 10, said “special permits” were issued to these firms without Emano convening the City Mining Regulatory Board, a prerequisite of Presidential Decree no. 1899, the law governing small-scale mining.
PD 1899 mandates the city government or any local government unit to convene the regulatory board which is composed of the MGB director as chair, the local chief executive or his representative as vice chair, a representative from non-government organizations, and two representatives from the mining sector.
Emano said he was not aware of PD 1899 and questioned the MGB for not requesting to convene the regulatory board. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)