A lawyer representing a cause-oriented group asked the Mines and Geosciences Bureau to revoke the mining license of a wholly-owned British company for allegedly operating within the protected Magat watershed.
Lawyer Arnel Victor Valeña, acting on behalf of the non-government organization Action for Consumerism and Transparency in Nation-Building, raised the challenge in a letter dated July 13, 2020 to acting MGB director Wilfredo Moncano.
Valeña said the entire area covered by the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement with the FCF Minerals Corp. was within the Magat watershed―a state-protected property mandated by Proclamation 573 issued in 1969.
The ACTION legal counsel submitted a map indicating that FCF’s Runruno Gold Project was “clearly within the Magat Watershed where mining activities are expressly prohibited under the Mining Act of 1995 and the NIPAS [National Integrated Protected Areas System] Act of 1992.”
“Moreover, it is also a matter of grave concern that the mine tailings and other toxic materials of the Runruno Gold Project may be spilling into the Magat River and other connecting waterways,” the letter stated.
Valeña said the Magat River “feeds into the Magat Dam which is the source of irrigation for agricultural lands in the Cagayan Valley, thereby threatening the agriculture and ecosystem of the basin of the Cagayan Valley.”
The lawyer also asked the MGB to immediately issue a cease-and-desist order against the FCF’s Runruno gold mining operations at the Magat watershed to avoid charges of “causing undue injury to the public and giving unwarranted benefits” to a particular private company.
Magat watershed irrigates 84,984 hectares of agricultural lands in Region 2, serving 61,812 farmers and 360 irrigation associations.
Valena said MGB had yet to answer his letter dated July 13. “Even in these times of pandemic, government particularly MGB should not be remiss in their duty to protect our environment and answer legitimate concerns,” Valena said.
ACTION earlier called on President Duterte to exercise his executive powers and cancel FCF’s mining franchise, underscoring that protected areas including watersheds are “strictly and absolutely beyond the commerce of man.”
ACTION in a statement cited NIPAS law which explicitly categorized watersheds as protected areas where mining operations are prohibited under Section 19 of the mining law.
“We respectfully ask President Rodrigo Duterte to cancel the FTAA of FCF Minerals Corp., which is located within the Magat River watershed forest reserve. Not only is the company mining in a protected area which is clearly prohibited under the Mining Act of 1995, but the Magat River also feeds into the Magat Dam which is the source of irrigation for agricultural land in the Cagayan Valley,” ACTION said in the statement.