Environmentalists, consumer advocates reject MGB’s mapping of Magat watershed

Environmentalists and consumer advocates urged the Mines and Geosciences Bureau to revoke the gold mining permit of a wholly-owned British corporation for allegedly pursuing operations within the state-protected Magat River Forest Reserve.

“The granting of the FTAA was before your time as acting director of MGB. Now, as the acting director, it is up to you to correct the errors of the past administration and enforce the pertinent provisions of the Mining Act of 1995 and other environmental laws, rules and regulations, and issue as cease and desist and cancellation orders against FCF Minerals Corp,” a lawyer of Action for Consumerism and Transparency in Nation-Building said in a Sept. 16, 2020 letter to MGB acting director Wilfredo Moncano.

Lawyer Arnel Victor Valeña, acting on behalf of ACTION, asked the MGB to perform its duty of enforcing pertinent provisions of the mining law and other statutes and regulations.

Valeña questioned the documents, including sketch maps of Magat Watershed used by the MGB as justification for the grant of mining license to the FCF.

The MGB earlier denied the request for a cease-and-desist order against the Runruno Gold Project of FCF Minerals in Nueva Vizcaya province. The agency also defended the financial or technical assistance agreement it issued for the project, saying the contract area under FTAA No. 004 granted to FCF Minerals is outside the area covered by Proclamation No. 573 issued on June 26, 1969.

Valeña, however, dismissed as “grievously erroneous” the sketch map presented by the MGB purporting to show that the FCF mine site is 64 kilometers away from the Magat Watershed.

Valeña claimed the FCF’s FTAA “is within the Magat River Forest Reserve, also called the Magat Watershed, which is a protected area.”

He said the MGB’s sketch map has the beginning point at the latitude of 17 40”29’. “This is not the latitude of the beginning point of the Magat River Forest Reserve. Rather, this is the latitude of the beginning point of Parcel No. 2 of Proclamation 573, which is the Chico river Forest Reserve,” he said.

Valeña also said Proclamation 573 was “published with a typographical error, and the latitude of the beginning point as seen in the law as published in the Official Gazette in 70-40”-29’. “This is no longer in the Philippines, but already in Russia,” he said.

“However, we cannot assume that the 70 should be 17, especially since 17 40”29’ is the latitude of the beginning point of the Chico Watershed as stated in the law,” he said.

According to the ACTION lawyer, the MGB map places the Magat River Forest Reserve in Apayao, Abra, Kalinga, Mountain Province and Ifugao, and not in Nueva Vizcaya, as the law stated.

“This also leads to the rather absurd situation that the Magat Watershed does not include the Magat River. In fact, since it has the same beginning point as the Chico forest Reserve, the two watersheds would overlap as shown in the MGB map,” he said.

ACTION, in a petition-letter submitted to Malacañang Palace, called on President Rodrigo 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 also invoked the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992 which explicitly categorized watersheds as protected areas where mining operations are prohibited under Section 19 of the mining law.

Topics: Environmentalists , consumer advocates , Mines and Geosciences Bureau , Magat River Forest Reserve
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