Kim’s Dream Orlan Ravanera
Despite All the Tragedies, Why is Illegal Mining Persisting?
Despite all the efforts to stop illegal mining in Cagayan de Oro that has even sacrificed the life of an intrepid environmental warrior who finally was killed on the 8th attempt to his life, the over-all Chieftain of the Higaonon Tribe, Datu Fausto Orasan known as Datu Sandigan, our beloved environmental kindred. We are so puzzled in SULOG, One Sendong is Enough, why illegal mining has intensified, this time going to Opol and Iligan City? What is even more puzzling is the non-stop involvement of some Chinese when in fact about five Chinese Nationals carrying only tourist visa had already been arrested by Task Force Kinaiyahan in 2014 when we were implementing the Writ of Kalikasan? But those arrested illegal Chinese miners were hideously released after only one week in prison. To bring to the fore the gravity of the problem, may I give a little historical backdrop.
To start, may I share on how Datu Sandigan survived the 7th attempt to his life that would show how determined were the illegal miners and the extent of their connivance, to wit: The dark and diabolical forces that were wrecking havoc to the integrity of the environment through massive illegal mining activities in the Iponan area of Cagayan de Oro were into intensifying it. That time, with impunity and intent to kill. Armed with Garand Rifles and pistols, they pulled the trigger, releasing a barrage of firepower, shooting the house of Datu Sandigan in Pigsag-an. Thinking that Datu Sandigan was already dead, they left walking down the road and giving notice to those whom they had met, not to follow the anti-mining stand of Datu Sandigan or else, they would meet the same fate. Fortunately, Datu Sandigan was still alive to expose those who committed such a dastardly act who were brandishing that they were above the law. Together with His Eminence, Arch. Tony Ledesma and then DILG Regional Director, Rene Burdeos, Datu Sandigan came as one of the guests of honor during the World Environment Day Celebration at Grand Caprice in 2013 where he narrated his near death experience and that of his family as well. What shocked us was the alleged perpetuators were then known barangay officials who were angry because the Caterpillar Backhoes used in mining operation were halted by the Mines and Geo-Sciences Bureau.
That was how big mining had become then in the five (5) upland barangays along Iponon River. There were thirteen (13) brand new Caterpillar Backhoes used for massive mining operations, highly destructive as these were into open-pit mining. Each Backhoe costs 10 million pesos. So, it was not mining just using “piko” and “pala,” after-all, as alleged by a City Official then.
If indeed several officials were indeed involved, we could not help but asked, who else were involved then into those illegal mining activities occupying key positions in government? We supposed that these alleged barangay officials have backers otherwise they would not display such arrogance of utterly disregarding the rule of law. More questions: Who were the big businessmen who would dare to invest hundreds of millions into these illegal mining operations? Unless these questions were answered, everything will just be in shadows despite the strong outcry to stop our accelerating drive towards ecological disasters.
There were still so many queries that were begging for answers then but until now remain unanswered: Prior to using the thirteen (13) backhoes for mining, there were some sixteen (16) barges that were dredging Iponan River of gold. We were informed that each barge would cost 15 million pesos. Again, who were the investors? Were these barges brought directly from China or Korea, considering that several Korean and Chinese firms were among the sixty-one (61) operators given permits by the LGU and given Environmental Compliance Certificates (ECCs) by the EMB of the DENR? If indeed barges were in fact brought to the Philippines by these firms, how come they were able to smuggle these into the City? Have these barges not passed the scrutiny of the Bureau of Customs?
QUESTIONS? QUESTIONS? QUESTIONS? The ECCs issued by the EMB were only for sand and gravel quarrying, how come they were flagrantly using these for mining? That being, how come no stoppage order or cancellation of ECCs or permits have been done by concerned government agencies? Carrying only papers as tourists, Chinese Nationals were the ones operating the barges that have been dredging Iponan River of sediments and alluvial deposits. Based on reports from environmental experts, from out of one ton of sediments extracted from the river, only five (5) grams of gold can be had. Until now, we in SULOG, One Sending is Enough, the Environmental Coalition for Peace, Justice and Sustainability are wondering why these questions remained unanswere. Until we are enlightened, we will be at the dark on how influential these miners are.
So much environmental damage has been inflicted by these foreigners to our land that aggravated flooding, exemplified by Sendong yet, that crime called theft of minerals goes on without let-up. If Bohol has “CHOCOLATE HILLS,” Cagayan de Oro has “CHOCOLATE RIVER,” that’s Iponan River. That is just a joke but that joke is in fact so painful because it has become a “chocolate” at so much cost to the people of Cagayan de Oro especially to our thousands of families living in coastal communities who are now living in extreme poverty because of the death of Macajalar Bay due primarily to massive siltation from illegal mining operations.
Now that the Chinese are into illegal mining in upland barangays along Iponan River, in Iligan and in Opol using Backhoes, still no one has been arrested, Why? Three months ago we went to barangay Nangkaon, Tuburan together with CLENRO Staff. We were told that again backhoes were used to destroy a mini-forest in the middle of a river digging 30 meter- deep below to mine for gold. The backhoes of the Chinese left after hiring and paying the poor residents in the area to mine for gold. Some 300 residents continue the illegal mining, then the Chinese left into hiding and so are the backhoes.
SO WAKE-UP CAGAY-ANONS! Please be reminded that when Sendong hit the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, some 3,000 died. Glaringly, one of the contributing factors of the deadly flood was the lost of the grandeur of Iponan River, an ecosystem that should have been a countervailing force but instead contributed to the rising of the onslaught of flood. Crime against the Mother Earth (GAIA) can either be committed through action or inaction, feasance or non-feasance. Our inaction and non-feasance for not hearing the cry of GAIA took the form of SENDONG as our penalty. This time, GAIA is in severe pain. Let us heal Her wound by stopping the further destruction of Iponan River and of Macajalar Bay due to illegal mining.