earth talk

EarthTalk Central Luzon at RW 95.1 FMDENR’s radio program ‘EarthTalk Central Luzon’ at RW 95.1 FM radio station aired from 8 AM to 9AM last June 9, 2020, with DJ Don Marco and DENR3-RPAO Don Guevarra as anchor and host for the said segment. To help them understand further the central topic/issue about mining, they had with them a special guest from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau Region 3, Regional Director Alilo C. Ensomo, Jr. who himself is a mining engineer by profession.

EarthTalk Central Luzon is a radio program initiated by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (Central Luzon) to talk about issues and concerns about the protection and conservation of environment and natural resources pursuing good air, water, and land quality.

On June 9, 2020, RD Alilo Ensomo Jr., graced the interview with DJ Don Marco of RW 95.1 FM and Mr, Don Marco of DENR3-RPAO to talk about the latest happenings in the region particularly on the issue of environment. Updates on important events celebrated by DENR in the region such as the World Environment Day and Philippine Environment Month were discussed along with the safety and health protocols implemented by the agency. Subsequently, latest issuesand queries about mining were discussed with MGB R-3’s regional director, Alilo C. Ensomo, Jr.

The interview began with questions about the role and functions of MGB in the government followed by the efforts done by the said agency along with mining companies in the fight against COVID-19. Latter part of the program was focused on unveiling the truth on the trending issue and concern spreading on social media.

According to RD Ensomo, some of the efforts done by MGB in this time of pandemic were: fast-tracking of processing applications to help the mining sector provide employment and spur the economy through generation of taxes; issuance by MGB central office to realign the social development and management program (SDMP) fund of mining companies to help their respective communities through food and service assistance during COVID-19 (32.8 M pesos saturating 479,916 beneficiaries were already raised through the joint efforts of mining companies); funds solicitation to mining companies in support to the treatment and quarantine mega-facility in Philippine Arena; and issuance of geohazard certifications and location maps for the evacuation centers including Balik Probinsya sites.

The first issue raised was from a Facebook post by a certain Rachel Harrison re: “Help us save our shoreline”, which alleged, among others, the presence of two (2) bog boats in full operation at the vicinity of Sto. Tomas River, with a pleading of “Do not dredge the beach and destroy our environment and natural resources.”

Upon learning the FB post, MGB R-3 have coordinated with the officials concerned of the Provincial Government (PG) of Zambales and with the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) of the said province, and conducted research on their existing records on the matter. According to the information received from PG and PENRO Zamables, the noted activity of the said vessels was only an “equipment check” and that there was no actual dredging yet. There is a pending rehabilitation program for the three (3) lahar-affected river systems (Sto. Tomas river, Bucao river and Maloma river) that accumulate so much lahar, overstopping the river banks resulting to persistent flooding in the four municipalities in the said province namely, San Marcelino, San Narciso, San Felipe and Botolan. The technical working group from DENR, DPWH, DILG and DOTr came out with the Joint Memo Circular resulting to the issuance from the DENR of DAO No. 13-2019 dated October 24, 2019 rationalizing dredging activities in the aforementioned three river channels in Zambales in order to restore the natural state and water flow of the heavily silted water systems and improve its hydraulic capacity thereby eliminate flooding, thus large scale dredging and desilting operations based on a comprehensive dredging plan will be implemented. Records of MGB R-3 show that GC8 Kinming, Inc., a certain dredging firm that requested for the testing of dredging equipment in San Felipe, Zambales, was granted with the certificate of accreditation on March 23, 2020 as part of the requirements for dredging operators under DAO No. 2019-13. Records further show that the mandatory requirements thereto i.e. endorsement from the PG Zambales, DPWH clearance, MOA from DENR R-3 and ECC from EMB R-3 have been complied. The reported activity was situated near the private lot owned by Ms. Harrison.

The second issue refers to an article with the subject “Chinese invaded Zambales, blow up mountains, killing farmers and seize Nickel into hi-tech weapons to sabotage the Philippine military and economy” currently circulating on Facebook. Perusal of the said article shows that it was based from the article of Mr. Jairus Bondoc published by The Philippine Star on July 22, 2013. As requested, hereunder are our answers/comments on the issues raised therein.

Issue A: “Through Filipino dummies they have set up five supposed “minahang bayan” or small-scale mines. The five (5) load ore and unload equipment in one (1) common pier, betraying the fact that they actually are one.”

Answer A: MGB R-3 office is not in the position to verify/establish whether or not the individuals that had been issued small-scale mining permits by PG-Zambales are indeed dummies of the aforementioned Chinese firms as alleged by Mr. Jairus Bondoc. The small-scale mining permits that had been issued by PGZ were under Presidential Decree (PD) 1899 entitles “Establishing Small Scale Mining as a New Dimension in Mineral Development. Said decree does not require establishment/declaration of the small-scale mining area as People’s Small Scale Mining Area or Minahang Bayan, unlike under R.A. No. 7076 or the People’s Small Scale Mining Act. Only upon issuance of Executive Order (EO) No. 79 on July 2012 that all small-scale mining activities have been mandated to be undertaken within a declared Minahang Bayan pursuant to R.A. No. 7076, and should not involve nickel ore and other metallic minerals except gold, silver and chromite. No new small-scale mining permit has been issued by the PGZ after the issuance of E.O. 79 and pending declaration of minahang bayan in the province.

Issue B: “Residents of Sta. Cruz cry that the Chinese mines have denuded the forest watersheds, and poisoned farmlands, rivers, sea, and air. Townsfolk of adjacent Masinloc, Zambales and Infanta, Pangasinan, also suffer. Muddied coastal waters drive small fishermen farther out the sea. But in the vicinity of Bajo de Masinloc, Chinese warships shell them back to shore.”

Answer B: Sometime in October 2014, the Environment and Natural Resources Office (ENRO) of Zambales conducted inspection and inventory of small-scale mining areas that have been covered by small-scale mining permits previously issued by the provincial government back 2008 (renewed in 2010 and 2011) and have all expired. These small-scale mining areas, located in barangays of Sta. Barbara and Palanginan both in in Iba, and Uacon in Candelaria, were found to have huge volume of nickel stockpiles on sites. These materials have not been disposed of at the time of validity of permits allegedly due to market problem. As noted by the ENROZ inspection team, said stockpiles have to be removed/disposed of due to its possible negative environmental impact and risks it may pose to communities.

Organizing and activating Information and Education Campaign (IEC) teams as counter measure is highly encouraged in the community to avoid repetition of these kinds of confusing situation.

Indeed, mining can be done responsibly. To know how, there’s a government agency fit for the role of providing proper guidance in the mining sector – Mines and Geoscienes Bureau (MGB). Due process of application in the government as well as close monitoring and evaluation of operations must be done to help the country become economically, environmentally and socially sustainable. Where there is responsible mining, there is sustainable development.