"We should distinguish between legal and illegal mining activities."
It has become a common refrain: Every time natural disasters occur and cause death as well as damage to properties, mining is demonized.
I have purposely delayed commenting on the subject because doing so right after several typhoons hit the country last year might be construed as insensitive. Those affected were still grappling from their loss and the agitation from anti-mining groups were at fever pitch.
But, Santa Banana, let’s get real. Is mining to be blamed every time natural disasters are strange? People should learn to delineate illegal from large-scale mining. I find the statement by the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines spokesman Rocky Dimaculangan that “illegal mining OPERATIONS DO NOT FOLLOW THE SAME STRINGENT SAFETY AND ENVIRONMENT STANDARDS REQUIRED (caps mine) of legitimate large-scale mining operators, including tailings and water management, air and water monitoring, miner habilitation, and reforestation.”
And here lies the root cause of miseries encountered by people when typhoons wreak havoc on their lives and livelihood. Illegal miners do as they please without regard to the risks their operation causes. On the other hand, large-scale or legal mining companies are subject to the strictest government regulation.
Worse, my gulay, illegal miners dig for minerals and create mini-communities mostly in areas designated as geo-hazard by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB). And yet, illegal mining thrives in cahoots with people of influence.
Influential people who make money out of these illegal miners don’t need college degrees to understand that it is totally absurd to allow people to create communities at the foot of mountains or in low-lying areas too close to the shore.
A case in point is a landslide which killed in the gold-mining barangay Runruno in Quezon town in Nueva Vizcaya. Lest we jump into uninformed conclusion, those who perished were not even in the vicinity of FCF Minerals Corporation’s area of operations, but in an MGB geo-hazard-classified area since 2018, according to records.
Regardless of that fact, the company assisted the community all throughout the calamity. Emergency Response Teams were dispatched even before the landslide to respond to emergencies. They spearheaded road-clearing operations for easy access. The team was there until the completion of the retrieval operations. The company also provided food for all the rescuers and provided financial assistance to the affected families.
But, still on the other hand, my gulay, why have they been allowed to live and make an illegal living in the area? Why were they allowed without permits in total disregard of the dangers that their activities pose, not only to them, but to the general public and the environment?
Quick to the rescue are anti-mining activists who are funded by non-government organizations (NGOs) supported in dollars by wealthy philanthropic foundations, grants from local, state and federal agencies located mostly in the United States, and private donations from leftist organizations, my gulay!
These activists have been rebuffed time and again by government agencies concerned but twist the narrative in the media to paint them as victims. For instance, the MGB turned down a request of a lawyer for a cease-and-desist-order against the Runruno Gold Project of FCF Minerals Corp. in Nueva Vizcaya province, finding no legal basis to issue that cease-desist-order against the company and/or cancel its FTAA (financial or technical assistance agreement) No.004.
MGB acting director Wilfredo Moncano issued the statement in response to a July 13 letter sent by Victor Alena who was acting on behalf of the non-government organization Action for Consumerism and Transparency in Nation Building.
The agency said “with regard to our concern on the mine tailings and other toxic materials, please be informed that FCF has been granted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources the government environmental compliance certificate (ECC-CO-1001-001) for its mining operation. Likewise, the contingent liability and rehabilitation fund steering committee has approved the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Program (EPEP) of FCF through certificate of approval No.100-2011-03.” I think that’s clear enough.
The agency also said the ECC and the EPEP bear the commitment and plan of FCF for the comprehensive and strategic environmental management, including the tailings storage facility.
“Please note that the mining operations of FCF is being regularly monitored by MGB through our Regional Office No. 2. It is also subject to the monitoring of a monitoring team pursuant to the provisions of Section 185 of DENR Administrative Order No. 2010-21, the consolidated implementing rules and regulation of Republic Act. No. 7942, the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.” Moncano said.
Often, Santa Banana, the problem lies when the media give emphasis to the calamity, giving a statement that disasters and calamities can be traced to logging and mining without differentiating between illegal and large-scale mining. Those in the latter group are monitored by the MGB in compliance with stringent DENR rules and regulations. It's the media that exacerbate the problem since media people often try to make a big issue about mining influenced by NGOs that are clearly anti-mining.
In a previous column, I said that the vaccine rollout program is as clear as mud. I was referring to the testimonies of those in charge of the rollout, like vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, particularly on prices. Other countries that procured this vaccine from China got it at much cheaper prices. This is what I meant when I said I smelled a rat.
Indeed, anomalies in pricing could make some people richer by the millions of pesos. We are no strangers to corruption in our country.
Now comes President Duterte saying that the deal with Sinovac is already sealed, with the presidential spokesman saying the Chinese drug costs only P650 per dose, not P1,814.75 per dose. These statements contradict those of the vaccine czar.
Santa Banana, this raises several questions: Was there really an attempt at corruption? Who are responsible? At the rate things are going, guess we’ll never know what really happened with the people who got their doses in advance.
My only conclusion about the vaccine rollout is that it’s a mess, my gulay!
Another question I’d like to ask is, why does Duterte say that the Sinovac deal is done when the Food and Drug Administration and a panel of experts have not yet given Sinovac the EUA or Emergency Use Authorization? In other words, the Sinovac is in place because there has been a previous agreement between China and the Philippines. It’s clear that Duterte favors Sinovac.
According to health experts, what is essential in buying a vaccine are safety and its efficacy. Price comes third. So, will Filipinos accept the vaccine from Sinovac when its efficacy is only 50 percent?