Monday, March 28, 2011
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 22, 2011) – Philippine environment officials have ordered a mining firm to stop all its activities in Zamboanga del Sur after it failed to comply with government requirements.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Mines and Geosciences Bureau in Western Mindanao also issued a "cease and desist order" against the Lupa Pigigetawan Mining Company Incorporated after it encroached in areas where other mining companies are operating.
Officials said the mining firm – which is claiming to represent Subanon indigenous people of Bayog town in Zamboanga del Sur province - was ordered to stop all its mineral exploration activities.
One mining firm, Bayog 9 Metals Corporation, also complained that Lupa Pigigetawan Mining Company Incorporated encroached inside their mine property and had began drilling activities. And the firm’s security guards, mostly armed with AK-47 assault rifles, allegedly prevented Bayog 9 employees from entering its mining site.
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau said a recent survey shows that permitted area issued to Lupa Pigigetawan Mining Company Incorporated also falls within the following mining rights Peng Cheng Mining Corporation, Greater Asia Mining and Development Corporation, Richgate Realtty and Devlopment Corporation, Cherill Pastoriza, Omega 9 Mining Corporation, TVI Mineral Processing Incorporated, 168 Ferrum Pacific Mining Corporation and Mindanao Mining and Mineral Resources Corporation.
Bayog town is rich in iron ore and gold deposits.
Subanon villagers said the Lupa Pigigetawan Company also employs heavily armed security force whose agency is reportedly owned by former police and military generals.
Regional Director Alberto Johann Jacildo, of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, said Lupa Pigigetawan Mining Company “failed to comply with other mandatory and procedural requirements in order to carry out lawful mining activities.”
Jacildo said that after careful verification, they found out that the mining company “did encroach and perform mining exploratory works on the area of Bayog 9.”
Raul Calumpang, now the acting Mines and Geosciences Bureau, said they will form a team to investigate reports that Lupa Pigigetawan Mining Company has violated the government's cease and desist order.
"We have received reports that despite the cease and desist order, the Lupa Pigigetawan Mining Company continued on with their exploration activities in Bayog town," he said.
He said Jadilco is on an official leave and would report back to work soon. But he assured that the Mines and Geosciences Bureau would act on the complaints against Lupa Pigigetawan Mining Company.
"They could lose their permit if the reports are true. We will investigate these reports," Calumpang said.
Village officials of Conacon, the host community where the Lupa Pigigetawan Mining Company has been conducting illegal activities, also issued a resolution declaring the company’s security agency, A-Y 76 Security Specialists Inc., as "persona non grata."
The resolution alleged that the agency’s heavily armed security personnel have set up an illegal boom and barrier on a public road and prevented village officials from accessing the area.
The resolution added that the security guards, “with finger on the trigger of their AK-47 caliber guns,” have caused people in the community “to worry and be afraid”.
Other sources also said that even Bayog town Mayor Jun Babasa was, at one point, allegedly barred by the security guards and company officials from inspecting the area.
Lupa Pigigetawan Mining Company insisted that its activities in Bayog town are authorized under a so-called Special Ore Extraction Permit signed by former Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Jose Atienza a few days before he vacated his post in 2009.
The Special Ore Extraction Permit, however, states that the “mining operation authorized under this Permit shall not be undertaken in areas covered by valid and existing mining contracts and permits of other parties concerned.”
“Mining, environmental, and other relevant rules and regulations shall be complied with. Failure to comply with the foregoing and/or with the terms and conditions of this Permit shall give cause for its revocation.”
Sources from the Environmental Management Bureau said that, apart from encroaching within Bayog 9’s exploration area, Lupa Pigigetawan Mining Company has a standing violation for conducting mining activities without an Environmental Compliance Certificate, a critical pre-requisite for all legal mining operations.
In the Special Ore Extraction Permit, Lupa Pigigetawan Mining Company claims to be a representative of the Subanons of Bayog. But other sources said the firm’s president, Absalon Alcorin, Jr., hails from Davao and that two signatory witnesses of the permit, Gualberto Padilla and Rosemary Garrido, are also from Cebu.
Securities and Exchange Commission records show that Lupa Pigigetawan Mining Company was incorporated in Cebu, and that only two of its nine incorporators, Mitubusan Casiano Edal and Timuay Alfredo Dingal, are Subanons.
It was also discovered that several Chinese engineers are working for Lupa Pigigetawan Mining Company in Bayog town, but they have failed to present any documents or permits allowing them to legally work there. One report said the foreigners were believed connected with Hua Qiao Mining Company and that one of them identified himself to environment officials as Ma Zhe Zheng.
Lawyer Deonhar Ceniza, Zamboanga del Sur’s Environment and Natural Resources Officer, said they have also received similar complaints against the mining firm and is closely working with police authorities to stop the illegal operation of the Lupa Pigigetawan Mining Company.
“We are working closely with the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the police authorities to implement the (cease and desist) order of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources,” he said.
He said the mining firm has no environmental compliance certificate to operate in Zamboanga del Sur. “There are a lot of reported violations and these have been well documented,” he said. (Mindanao Examiner)