PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has yet to lift a ban on new open pit mining operations even after the interagency Mining Industry Coordinating Council voted to reverse the policy, the Palace said Monday.
“I assure you that this is one of the instances when I personally asked the President if there’s been a change in policy. And he says that’s there’s still no new policy on this, there’s still a ban on new open pit mining,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said in a news briefing.
Roque, however, admitted that he had yet to find out if the President had been informed of the MICC recommendation lifting the ban.
In a related development:
The Department of Justice has been asked to prosecute a lawmaker and a top financier of the opposition Liberal Party for committing criminal offenses allegedly for using fake documents to dupe the government and their business partners of billions of pesos in mining revenues.
In a complaint filed with the Surigao City Prosecutor’s Office, Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice and LP financier Patrick Angelo “Eric” Gutierrez were charged with falsification of public documents that they allegedly used to cart away with P2.8 billion in revenue from unathorized operations of their mining firm SR Metals Inc.
Besides Erice and Gutierrez, complainant Rodney Basiana, a small-scale miner from Agusan del Norte, also named as respondents John Anthony Gutierrez, Miguel Alberto (Mico) Gutierrez, Alejandro Basalio and Antonio Dimabayu.
In an earlier interview, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said his agency was set to issue a DAO (DENR Administrative Order), restoring open-pit mining operations.
“A majority of the MICC members voted to recommend a change in the policy of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources with regard to DAO 2017-10, particularly, that the DENR lift the ban on open-pit mining provided that mining laws, rules and regulations are strictly enforced,” Cimatu said.
Last October, the Mining Industry Coordinating Council, an inter-agency panel that makes recommendations on mining policy, asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to lift the ban imposed by then Environment secretary Regina Lopez, despite laws allowing such practice to take place.
Basiana accused the respondents, who were all officers and members of the board of SMRI in 2005, of making it appear that their corporation was the holder of mining claims over an 81-hectare area in Tubay, Agusan del Norte when it was Basiana’s company, Basiana Mining Exploration Corp. which held such rights.
Basiana alleged that BMEC had a small-scale mining application as MPSA No. (XIII)-00014 for Tubay dated 31 July 1997 for which it paid the corresponding application fee of P5,520 under official receipt no. 2817891 also dated 31 July 1997.
In August 2000, BMEC assigned its rights over its mining application to Manila Mining Corp. with the express provision that notwithstanding the agreement, it remained the real and true owner of the application and that it can revoke agreement anytime.
In October 2005, BMEC exercised its rights to revoke its Deed of Assignment to MMC. Thereafter, on 18 October 2005, BMEC executed a Deed of Assignment over its mining application in favor of SRMI which was then headed by Erice and Eric Gutierrez.
Under the same agreement, SRMI confirmed and recognized Basiana’s beneficial ownership of the mining claims and granted him five percent of the gross proceeds of the sales of the mining yields as may be extracted.
As a result, SR Metals was granted permit and thereafter commenced mining operations in Barangays La Fraternidad, Binuangan and Sta. Ana in Tubay, Agusan del Norte.
However, SR Metals reneged on its obligation to remit the five percent to Basiana.
Basiana then found out that Erice and Gutierrez forged Basiana’s mining application and Official Receipt by making it appear that SRMI was the one who applied and paid for the application on 31 July 1997.
He said SRMI could not possibly apply for MPSA in 1997 because it was only organized and registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission only on 10 May 2005.
“The MPSA Application under oath, executed and signed by respondent (Erice) on 7 July 2006, conspiring, confederating and helping once another with the other named accused respondents, by making untruthful statements in a narration of facts despite their legal obligation to disclose the truth of the facts narrated by them; are absolutely false and untruthful statements in the narration of facts that they committed was made with the wrongful intent of injuring and damaging BMEC, my late father, my mother, the other members of the Basiana family and me, amounting to billions of pesos,” Basiana alleged in his complaint.
“Immediately, upon discovering and learning on 23 November 2007 about the above-said falsified document, BMEC through its then counsel, Atty. Teresita Marbibi, wrote a letter to Mr. Julian Amador, Director DENR EMB, regarding the falsified document that was filed by SRMI and signed by its then President (Erice) purportedly on 31 July 1997, considering that SRMI was registered with the SEC only on 10 May 2005 with a current authorized capital stock of P40 million,” he added.
Despite such spurious documents, SRMI was able to engage in not only in small-scale mining but large-scale mining operations in Tubay, Agusan del Norte and had transported and exported nickel and iron ores valued in the billions.
This prompted the Basianas to move to nullify SRMI’s application on 4 February 2008. But then DENR Secretary Lito Atienza ignored Basiana’s motion and proceeded to issue a new MPSA in favor of SRMI using as basis the spurious documents.
“On the basis of the above-said facts, all the respondents are liable for Falsification by private individuals and use of falsified documents for making untruthful statements in a narration of facts under oath; by altering the date mentioned in the document which is essential as it will definitely affect either the veracity of the document and by intercalation (insertion) of the incorrect date of filing on a genuine document that changed its meaning and made the same speak something false,” Basiana said.
Basiana stressed and cited that “it is highly improbable for SR Metals to have filed the MPSA application on July 31, 1997 because it was organized and registered with the SEC only on May 10, 2005.” But Gutierrez corporate men made it appear that their outfit “was the original applicant of the MPSA that had been filed by Basiana over the mining areas.”
With the same documents giving the go-ahead for small-scale miner Basiana, SRMI went on to strip off over 800 hectares of land within Barangays La Fraternidad, Binuangan, and Sta. Ana in Tubay town, Agusan del Norte.
In a Senate inquiry in 2012, Gutierrez admitted their firm “over-extracted 1.8 million tons of nickel ore.” Mining laws limit small-scale mine ore extraction to 50,000 tons per year.
In the same Senate hearing, it was established that the Gutierrez firm had shipped out to China nickel ores worth P2.8 billion.