Group wants DENR-10 official out

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/13 November)—An environment coalition here is demanding the relief of Environment Management Bureau (EMB 10) Regional Director Sabdullah Abubakar for the “suspicious ransacking” of his office a day after the group requested copies of the Environmental Compliance Certificates (ECCs) issued for the now-controversial Iponan projects.

In a statement Tuesday, Sulog Secretary General Bob Ocio cited why the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, aside from declaring an immediate moratorium on dredging, sand and gravel quarrying and hydraulic mining in Iponan River, should also boot out Abubakar.

“Who stands to benefit?” Sulog asked, referring to reports the computer hard disks containing the ECC files were destroyed.

“Why did this happen a day after Sulog requested copies for the ECCs issued for the Iponan projects?

What (were) in those ECCs? Why must they be destroyed?” it added.

Sulog said Abubakar “must be made to account” and “must be ousted” for having “lost any moral ground to stay in his position any minute longer.”

However, in an interview, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) 10 Regional Director Rex Monsanto assured that the ransacking of the EMB office last week will not in any way affect the cases they have filed against the illegal miners.

“The office of the MGB and EMB are separate. We do not rely on the data from the EMB,” said Monsanto.

Earlier this week, EMB 10 legal officer Abas Lao vehemently denied earlier reports that computer hard drives that contained records on illegal mining in Cagayan de Oro and adjacent areas were lost. But he was mum on queries about the ECC records Sulog had requested.

In a phone interview over the weekend, Sulog Chair Orlando Ravanera recalled that EMB 10 was also under Abubakar when local environment watchdog Task Force Macajalar demanded a moratorium on logging operations in the city’s watershed.

“It was under his leadership that there were also suspicious and questionable issuances of ECCs to logging operations before,” Ravanera said.

In the same statement, Sulog also alleged the following: misrepresentation and scandalous usage of the sand and gravel or quarry permit as fronts for gold extraction; the MGB has continued to issue exploration permits to proponents when they are already mining gold via illicit means; the permit issued by the Mayor (Vicente Emano) is irregular because there is still no standing City Mining Regulatory Board; dredgers on the guise of widening the Iponan River are owned and manned by foreign nationals and dummies as fronts.

“The operations constrict the river channels instead and the lack of transparency in the ECCs issued by the EMB even as the controversy of the permit misuse was already a raging public issue,” it said.

Ocio pointed out that the gold deposits along the Iponan River could only be found in the alluvial soil, and “to free the gold, the mountains and river embankments must be destroyed first.”

“Being alluvial in nature, there is no economical way that hydraulic mining or any sizable mining operation can free the gold without heavily silting the river. The pollution problem and heavy siltation of the ‘chocolate river’ of Iponan is because of EMB’s inaction by not taking measures to address the problem expeditiously,” he explained. (Cong Corrales/MindaNews)