Cervantes officials press stand against mining Lopez urged: Cancel MPSAs in Ilocos, Cordillera regions

>> Monday, March 6, 2017

By Aldwin Quitasol

VIGAN CITY, Ilocos Sur – The Ilocos Network for the Environment (Defend Ilocos) urged Environment Sec. Regina Lopez to cancel mineral production sharing agreements (MPSAs) that straddle watersheds supporting Ilocos rivers, even as officials of Cervantes started a signature campaign against mining in the town among other areas.
“We urge Sec. Lopez to include in the cancellation order all applications that cover watersheds areas in the region and in other parts of the Cordillera,” the group said after Lopez cancelled 75 MPSAs of mining companies nationwide.
The group said the region suffers from dry spells and drought almost annually and “mining operations in watershed areas will increase the suffering of the people, especially the farmers who largely depend on creeks, streams and rivers for irrigation”.
Based on records of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, seven companies have applied for permits covering key watershed areas in Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte, namely, Cordillera Exploration Company, Inc., Newmont Philippines, Olpaten Resources Corporation, Diamond Drilling Corporation, Rhenzel Resources Corporation, Benguet Corporation, and Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company.
“The cancellation of MPSAs in Baay-Licuan, Abra and Mankayan, Benguet are commendable since streams and rivers in these locations drain to the Abra River but the surface water system in the region remains under threat because applications and permits of other companies remain active,” said Sherwin De Vera, regional coordinator of the group.
He added that Lopez should support the clamor of environmental groups to repeal the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and passage of the People’s Mining Bill to realize watershed protection against corporate plunder.
This, as the Cervantes municipal government here, in a public statement urged residents to sign a petition supporting  resolutions opposing entry of large scale mining companies passed and approved by the municipal officials.
“Just like what we did when we voiced out our deep implementation of Aluling Bridge for several decades, we believe that the stand of the stakeholders would be heard too and this will counter the petition being passed around by (Cordillera Exploration Company, Inc. (CExCI), which was allegedly signed by several people from Cervantes who already sold their souls over ‘thirty pieces of silver.’ Watch out for their ‘Kiss’,” the LGU officials expressed as one in the statement.
Aluling bridge was dubbed “longest bridge “in Ilocos Sur because it took 35 years to be completed.
Some critics said the project was completed after more than three decades because of corruption and inefficiency.
CExCI is a subsidiary of Nickel Asia Corporation, the Philippines' largest producer of lateritic nickel ore and one of the largest in the world.
It has a pending Exploration Permit Application (EXPA No. 116) before the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) covering 11,170 hectares in Mankayan and Bakun, Benguet and in Cervantes.
It has also an Application for Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (AFTA) No. 8, covering 43,524 hectares in Mankayan, Bakun, and Buguias, Benguet; Tinoc, Ifugao; Bauko, Sabangan, Besao, Sagada, Bontoc, and Sadanga, Mountain Province; Cervantes, Quirino, Gregorio del Pilar, and San Emilio, Ilocos Sur; and Luba, Abra.
According to the statement, the municipality of Cervantes for several administrations takes its stand against mining in the town. “Your elected officials are united in this stand, from the Mayor, Vice Mayor, Councilors and the barangay representatives in the municipal council or Sangguniang Bayan. Silently and without fanfare, your officials had been fighting for this battle,” the officials added.
In the statement, the officials revealed that just recently, the officials were solicited by Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (Lepanto to pass a resolution opposing the appointment of DENR chief Gina Lopez. “…but this request by Lepanto Mines, was politely denied with the explanation that Ms. Gina Lopez could be of great help in disapproving any mining activity in our beloved town,” read the statement.

The Cervantes officials mentioned that “while everyone believes they have good reasons and goodwill, no one holds the monopoly of it.”


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