Butuan folks raise concerns on alleged mining operation disguised as quarry

BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews / 16 Oct) – Concerned citizens here have raised concerns over reports of an alleged mining operation in a hinterland village disguised as quarry a year after the same area was raided twice by authorities because of illegal mining operation.

Residents of Purok 8 in Barangay Taligaman, meanwhile, are afraid to come out in the open, fearing for their safety.

But a few interviewed by MindaNews who requested anonymity said the quarry operators have prohibited them from venturing into Taligaman River, where the supposed quarry operation is ongoing. “We even heard of statements saying that trespassers will be shot,” said one.

Concerned organizations in this city are just as worried.

“I can’t believe that they would give permits to the quarry operation when in fact the very same area was raided twice, where two Chinese nationals were arrested and two backhoes, along with other mining equipment, were confiscated in that area last year,” said Jody Navarra, trustee and chairman of the education committee of the Butuan Global Forum, Inc.

Michael Leo Torralba, regional coordinator of Samahang Magdalo in Butuan City, pointed out that the same area has been known for several years where illegal mining operations thrive.

He lamented why the same people in the same area are still being issued the same sand-and-gravel quarry permit despite the raids where it was found out that there were illegal mining operations there.

The area in Purok 8, Barangay Taligaman was first raided Sept. 18 last year, where two Chinese nationals were apprehended but were able to post bail.

It was raided again on Nov. 5, where several mining equipment and two backhoes were seized and workers allegedly working for a Chinese national were apprehended.

Navarra stressed that even though it has been fully proven that there are mining operations in Taligaman, he could not understand why the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) and the Sangguniang Panlungsod keep on entertaining and accepting quarry applications there. “We know that such application can and might be used as a cover for mining as what we have experienced in the past,” he added.

Alexander Alaan, City Environmental Natural Resources Officer (CENRO), said that there are two existing quarry permits in the area, but stressed that there is no mining involved.

But he said that the one issued to Francisco Supangan is the only one operational as of now.

“Our office is on constant monitoring on the alleged illegal mining but so far we haven’t seen or observed anything illegal,” Alaan said.

He said they issued the quarrying permit because of the deposited material in the higher part of the river bed, and that if it would accumulate then it will cause siltation.

But Alaan admitted that while in the course of washing the gravel the operators accidentally find gold or other precious metals, “then there is nothing wrong about it.”

Dr. Virgilio Nery Jr., chairman of the environment and natural resources committee of the city council, that based on the pictures, there is clearly a violation by the quarry operator because of the widespread destruction in the area.

“I will be calling for an investigation and will put up a task force to look into this situation since there is clearly a lapse in the monitoring on the part of the CENRO,” he added.

Nery pointed out that the SP issued the quarry permit based on the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) issued by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).