September 26 - October 09, 2005
THE ILOCOS TIMES - NEWS

Pols behind failure of prov’l environment programs

Politicians with personal and hidden agendas are behind the failure of every environment program.

This was the claim made by officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) during a press conference held at the North View Hotel here in Laoag City for MGB’s first annual regional mine safety and accident prevention campaign on September 27 to 29.

Samuel Gumangan, outgoing provincial environment and natural resources officer of Ilocos Norte disclosed this sad scenario on September 28 during the said press conference, saying the environment department has sound and outstanding environment laws, however he admitted that no matter how they would want to implement the law, they are being hindered by influential politicians to do otherwise.

Though he came short of naming names, Gumangan hinted that interventions by political personalities often cause the delay and implementation of environmental programs and enhancements, and worse, when these same politicians also intervene if the environment officers crack down on violators who are “attached” to political personalities.

Gumangan cited the boundary dispute between the neighboring municipalities of Piddig and Carasi, both in Ilocos Norte, where the DENR could not decide on the case and allowed the court to step in to settle the issue and thus ensure an entirely long process.

The DENR official also said that major problems come in when investors would want to develop a disputed area such as the case of Rigid Aggregates Corporation, which has obtained a two-year permit from the MGB to operate small-scale mining in Carasi. Rigid wants to expand into a large-scale mining operation but its application has been pending due to lack of some of the mandatory requirements plus the unresolved boundary conflict between Carasi and Piddig.

Carasi is a mineral-rich town in Ilocos Norte and now hosts the iron ore mining of Rigid—the region’s first metallic mine after the closure of the copper mines in Bully Bueno, Nueva Era and Barlo, Dasol, Pangasinan 25 years ago.

Rigid was granted a permit to mine by the MGB in line with the bureau’s promotion of responsible and sustainable mining in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to liberalize the mining industry.

Based on surface indications and recent geological studies conducted by MGB, the mine has an estimated iron ore reserve of about 1.6 million metric tons, with 50 to 71 percent iron (Fe).

According to MGB, the host community would be the first to benefit from the project as the company is committed to do its share in providing jobs and protecting the environment.

Another seemingly “politically motivated” intervention occurred in a large-scale mining operation in Pinili, Ilocos Norte where many residents in the mining area had been complaining of the roads’ deterioration due to the numerous dump trucks that pass by to and from the mine,

DENR officials hinted that law enforcers “controlled” by politicians would think twice about apprehending overloading trucks owned by persons in authority even if these results in the deterioration of the town’s infrastructures.

Leilanie G. Adriano

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