Buffer zone to protect Butuan watershed from logging, mining eyed

BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/08 August) – Threats posed by logging and mining activities to the city’s water supply have led to a proposal from a government-initiated body to create a permanent one-kilometer buffer zone at the Taguibo watershed area that straddles this city and parts of Agusan del Norte.

Edilberto Buiser, chair of the Taguibo Watershed Management Council said the buffer zone would protect the watershed from being affected by mining activities later.

The Taguibo Watershed, located in Barangay Anticala, is the major source of potable water supply distributed by the Butuan City Water District to more than 500,000 households and business establishments. It is also the water source of irrigation facilities in the city.

But the council said it has discovered illegal logging and mining activities in the area perpetrated by an unnamed businessman triggering a public outcry.

“The council is closely monitoring the activities of at least six prospective mineral operators near the proclaimed 4,000–hectare Taguibo Watershed,” Buiser, also the regional executive director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Caraga, said during their fourth council meeting here over the weekend.

“Since Taguibo area is a proclaimed watershed, it is just appropriate and logical to closely monitor all activities in the area. There are other sites at the watershed that were developed and improved by some groups of indigenous peoples for their livelihood programs under the Community-Based Forest Management Program (CBFM),” he said.

Records at the Mines and Geo-Sciences Bureau (MGB) regional office show that the Village Mining Exploration Corp. had applied for an exploration permit on June 8, 2007 covering 5,234.93 hectares for nickel and chromites mining.

Lawyer Roberto T. Tejano, a former Agusan del Norte vice governor, had also applied for an exploration permit covering 5,660.42 hectares for gold ore mining,

The other mining firms that have applied for exploration permits are the East Coast Mining Resources (5,660.42 hectares for nickel ore), Mega Tsung Mining Corp. (1,350.96 hectares for nickel ore) and Philippine Czec Mining Company Inc. (6,386.63 hectares for copper, gold and other minerals).

Their applications cover parts of the cities of Cabadbaran and Butuan and RTR town in Agusan del Norte.

Another mining firm, the United Philippines and China Mining Corp., filed on October 18, 2004 an application for a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) for gold mining covering 2,384.86-hectares in RTR.

MGB records indicated that the application permits of these tenement holders were still being processed.

Region Xlll MGB Regional Director Alilio Ensomo said that the Taguibo Watershed has rich deposits of manganese but mining activities in this area are restricted by law.

The council also said it would conduct further study before considering the applications of small-scale mining operators.

The TWMC is composed of the religious sector, National Economic Development Authority, National Commission of Indigenous Peoples, Department of Interior and Local Government, Army, police, mayors of the cities of Cabadbaran and Butuan and of the towns of RTR in Agusan del Norte and Sibagat in Agusan del Sur and the Butuan City Water District. (Alden Pantaleon Jr./MindaNews)