Lopez on mining ops in Caraga: “Oh my God. Grabe. It’s absolutely crazy”

SURIGAO CITY (Mindanews/29 Jan) —  Horrified by what she saw during a two-day aerial survey of mining operations in Surigao del Norte,  Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Norte and Dinagat Islands, Environment Secretary Gina Lopez told MindaNews upon arrival at the airport here: “Oh my God. Grabe. It’s absolutely crazy.”

Lopez was aghast at the massive siltation wrought by some large-scale mining operations in the areas she visited.

Environment Secretary Gina Lopez arrives at the Surigao City airport on Friday, January 27, 2017, after a two-day aerial survey of mining operations in the Caraga region.

The Environment Secretary did an aerial survey of mining operations in Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur on Thurdsay and in Agusan del Norte and Dinagat Islands on Friday.

“Parang nighmare. Sabi ko…aaahhh,” said Lopez as she showed this reporter the videos and photos she took using her mobile phone.

“What is that? That is Surigao. Ano yan. Grabe di ba?” she said.

Lopez along with former Mines and Geosciences Bureau director Leo Jasareno and MGB-Caraga Region director Roger De Dios flew over the mine sites on a helicopter.

“Ang mamasabi ko is bawal ito. (What I can say is this is a violation). It’s against the law,” she said.

“Look at that, Lopez said, pointing to the images on her phone. “It’s crazy. Hindi naman umuulan. (It’s note even raining). It’s crazy,” she said.

Lopez said she will make an announcement on February 2 about her visit here.

“My over-all assessment ang Surigao at Dinagat ay maganda at kung alagaan ang kalikasan ay may pag-asa. Malaki ang potential sa eco-tourism. If sisirain at a few lang ang nag benefit, kawawa ang mga tao. Ang taga Surigao at Dinagat ay dapat makinabang sa resources hindi dapat mga taga labas,” (My overall assessment is Surigao and Dinagat are beautiful and if we can take care of our environment, there is hope. The potential for eco-tourism is huge. If the environment is destroyed and only a few benefit, the people will be disadvantaged. Those in Surigao and Davao should benefit from the resources, not those from outside), she said.

She said thsoe who are benefiting from the resources in Dinagat are not from Dinagat. Lopez noted that those who are benefiting are businessmen but those who suffer are residents of Dinagat.

De Dios,  MGB Caraga director said some mining companies will be punished.

“I don’t want to mention these mining companies because I got an instruction from Ma’am Lopez not to tell yet because she will announce it next week,” de Dios said.

De Dios said most of the mining companies here are not complying with the rules.

“Mga badlongon kasagaran ning mga kompanya diri sa mina” (Most of the mining firms are violators), De he said.

In Caraga region, 10 mining companies are operating in Dinagat, all mining nickel ore; seven in Surigao del Norte, six of them into nickel mining and one in gold and silver; two nickel mining firms in Agusan del Norte and two gold mining firms in Agusan del Sur.

Rev. Pio Mercado, chair of Caraga Watch, an anti-mining group in Caraga region earlier said mining companies should stop operations.

“They have been wantonly destroying the environment in the region. Their permits must be cancelled,” Mercado said.

Dulmar Raagas, President of the Chamber of Mines in Caraga Region could not be reached for comment despite several calls and text messages. (Roel N. Catoto/ MindaNews)