SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/22 March)—Around 300 protesters flocked to the office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in Caraga Region Friday to strongly demand anew the implementation of the temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) issued by the court against Marcventure Mining Development Corporation (MMDC).
The protesters from various civil society groups, lambasted MGB regional director Roger de Dios for apparently disregarding a new directive from the MGB main office in Manila to implement the court order.
The MGB main office, in a letter dated March 15 issued by acting assistant director Elmer Billedo, reminded De Dios that he should not disregard the TEPO issued by the Regional Trial Court of Cantilan, Surigao del Sur in 2010
Since March 11, residents from Surigao del Sur and Surigao del Norte provinces have been picketing the MGB regional office to demand the TEPO’s implementation.
“The regional director [De Dios] promised us during our dialogue last March 13 that he will inform us of any order that will come from Manila on the matter of the TEPO. But he hid this new order from us, It is only recently that we’ve discovered the [new] letter addressed to his office. This is a clear sign of how treacherous he is,” said Chito Trillanes, Diocesan Social Action Center spokesperson.
At the time of the dialogue, De Dios declined the protesters’ demand to implement the TEPO because he has not received any direct order from the court or the MGB main office. He then promised the protesters he will inform him them of any order from the main office.
Trillanes said they felt cheated by De Dios when he did not inform them about the March 15 letter from the MGB main office.
On March 19, De Dios decided to conduct a community inspection, inviting leaders of the protesters, whom he later left behind in Carrascal town “because of the bad road condition,” Trillanes recalled.
Trillanes said they later found out that De Dios did not visit the affected area and did not interview community members.
Citing farmers, irrigators and the people waiting for the MGB official in the area, Trillanes added that De Dios reportedly went instead with MMDC personnel who guided him to “areas the company only wants to be inspected.”
Outraged by what they described as betrayal by the MGB regional officials, an estimated 300 people from various organizations joined Friday those who have been picketing the agency’s office for two weeks now.
Dr. Isidro Olan, executive director of Lovers of Nature Foundation, Inc. called De Dios’ action a “clear sign of disregarding the law.”
“The court order has been given, and an order from the MGB central office has been forwarded, but De Dios had remained steadfast on his stand not to facilitate and implement the TEPO. For someone who is supposed to be protecting the environment, this is a clear disregard [of the law],” said Olan.
Olan, who survived an ambush last year, called for various sectors to join in and condemn De Dios’ action.
“This is abuse of authority, a court ruling has been made but he has taken us for a fool. It is very obvious what he is doing, and the reasons his office had given for not implementing the TEPO are very shallow and he should be investigated,” said Olan.
Rogelio Montero, provincial chairman of Kapunungan sa mga Mag-uuma sa Surigao del Norte or KAMASS, stressed the need for the TEPO’s implementation to avoid threatening the food security in the area.
“Laterites have been creeping into farm lands in the area, affecting our farmers’ annual yields. This is not only a threat to the farmers but to the people who rely their food supply from us,” Montero said.
Elvie Arrubio, president of the Cantilan Irrigation System Federation of Irrigators Association, backed his claims, noting that because of laterite siltation, only 1,555 hectares (ha) can now be irrigated from the previous 2,000 ha.
De Dios did not face the protesters and was not responding despite repeated phone calls.
But earlier, he said the MGB regional office cannot implement the TEPO because it is not a party to the case.
On Nov. 11, 2010, the court issued a TEPO against MMDC for operating in a declared watershed forest reserve. (Erwin Mascarinas/MindaNews)