South Koreans illegally mining beaches
By Neal Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:27:00
You have already heard what the South Koreans have done in our country, in particular at the Subic Bay Free Trade Zone and on Volcano Island in Taal, Batangas. They built a high-rise residential condominium in the middle of a forest and tried to raze a mini-forest along the pier area to build a hotel-casino in Subic. They succeeded in the forest but were blocked in the second by a Filipino architect trying to save our environment. In Taal, they almost succeeded in putting up a hot springs spa at the foot of Taal volcano itself, with the approval of the mayor but without an Environment Compliance Certificate (ECC) from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). They had almost finished construction when the people woke up to what they were doing and protested. So the national government stepped in and construction was stopped.
Now listen to what the South Koreans are doing in the northernmost tip of Cagayan, home province of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. Six coastal municipalities of Cagayan have miles and miles of beaches that attract tourists. Foreign and domestic tourists like the beaches because of their color. No, they are not white like that of Boracay but the opposite color: black. Although the sands are not white, they are more valuable than the snow-white sands of Boracay. It is because the black sand is 70 percent composed of magnetite, a mineral used in the smelting of iron ore into steel. It is what the South Koreans are lusting after, the newly industrialized country being hungry for steel. They have been digging up the beaches and shipping away the black sand. They have already made a wasteland of the beaches of five municipalities. Without a beachfront to hold back the sea, salt water has invaded the farms and made them unproductive. They have started mining the beach of a sixth municipality, Buguey, at Barangay Minanga Este, but the mayor, Ignacio M. Taruc, and the municipal council stopped them. Koreans and their agents made many visits to Mayor Taruc to ask for a mining permit but the latter refused. The municipal government vigorously opposed any form of mining on its beaches as it would mar its pristine beauty and pose a danger to its farmlands. The council passed a resolution “vehemently objecting to the mining of black sand and other minerals along the coastal areas of Buguey as we believe that this is destructive not only to the environment but also poses a danger to the safety and security of the people and the loss of their livelihood due to the entry of seawater into their farms.” Apparently, the governor, Alvaro T. Antonio, was not able to resist the “persuasive powers” of the Koreans In spite of the opposition of the people of Buguey, he issued a permit to mine its beaches of black sand, but it was in the name of a political ally, one Renato Alariao, a former member of the municipal council, although it was being used by the Korean company, Jisan Mining Corp.
Mayor Taruc wrote to the governor objecting to the mining operation as it would openly violate the Mining Law as well as the Provincial Environment Code which prohibits “the gathering, extraction, and/or removal of beach resources, pebbles, sand and gravel and boulders for whatever purpose.” Governor Antonio did not reply even as Mayor Taruc refused to issue a mayor’s permit. Instead, the governor directed the mining operation to proceed with the assistance of armed men. Taruc brought the case to Environment Secretary Lito Atienza who, on recommendation of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau which found the operation illegal, issued a cease-and-desist order on April 22, 2009. The order stopped further degradation of the environment but not before the beach and protective bunkers were ruined. The people of Buguey formed human barricades to prevent the shipping away of thousands of bags of black sand but the governor allegedly sent 100 policemen from different municipalities to act as guards of the miners.
The governor also resurrected an old invalid administrative case filed by the mayor’s political opponent against Taruc and immediately suspended him from office for 60 days last March 4. When the 60-day suspension expired last May 4, the provincial council rushed its decision on the case, convicted Mayor Taruc of simple misconduct but imposed the maximum six-month suspension. Worse, the suspension was immediately carried out despite Taruc’s timely motion for reconsideration. More than 100 policemen from the different towns were sent by the governor to the Buguey town hall, surrounded it and ejected Mayor Taruc despite his and his supporters’ protestations that the council decision was not yet final and executory. Electric power and water supply of the town hall were cut off. Taruc’s opponent, Vice Mayor Licerio Antiporda III, assumed the mayorship, but town hall employees still went to Mayor Taruc’s home were he held office. The suspension order of Taruc is on appeal and a complaint for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act has been filed against Governor Antonio with the Office of the Ombudsman, praying that the governor be preventively suspended. Apart from the charges filed against Governor Antonio and the dummies of the Korean mining company, shouldn’t charges of illegal mining be filed against the Koreans and their accomplices? Shouldn’t the Department of Interior and Local Government step in to prevent abuses by the provincial government? And shouldn’t the Department of Foreign Affairs summon the Korean ambassador and denounce the abuses of Korean business firms in the country?