Black sand haulers build wall to keep operations unseen

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Haulers of black sand in Pangasinan province found a way to keep their operations unnoticed by prying eyes.

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Former Rep. Teddy Casiño of Bayan Muna party-list revealed that a wall has been erected along the shoreline that would form part of the local government’s eco-tourism project where the magnetite mining activities go unabated.

Casiño also urged Environment Secretary Ramon Paje to look into reports that the illegal operations continue in Lingayen, Pangsinan despite an earlier cease-and-desist order issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

“Because of that reported wall, residents could no longer monitor if the mining of black sand continues. And we have been receiving reports that it does,” he said, in an interview with Quezon City reporters.

“The DENR national leadership should now step in. Secretary Paje should form a team of investigators and send this team to Pangasinan to get to the bottom of this.

“We also call on residents to be continuously vigilant and report any suspicious activities because this illegal mining will have a negative impact on their lives,” Casiño added.

Village officials and Lingayen residents have earlier urged the Ombudsman to hasten the resolution of their criminal complaint against provincial officials led by Gov. Amado Espino Jr. for allowing illegal black sand mining operations in the guise of an eco-tourism project in their area.

“We hope there will soon be a resolution to the case we filed in January 2012. We want a legal precedent that black sand mining cannot be allowed in our province,” said Vicente Oliquino, one of the complainants and president of the anti-mining group Aro Mo Ako Sambayanan (Aromas).

“We have been waiting for a ruling for more than two years now,” added the Sabang village council member.

Reports from the ground pointed to the continuous extraction of black sand along the Lingayen shore to this day.

Oliquino earlier tagged Espino as the “black sand king of Pangasinan.”

In their 12-page complaint in 2012, the village officials and residents said officers of the firms Alexandra Mining and Oil Ventures Inc. and Xypher Builders Inc. were liable for violation of mining laws.

The complainants accused Espino, Lingayen provincial administrator Rafael Baraan, consultant Eric Acuna, Pangasinan housing officer Alvin Bigay, and several village heads of conspiring to allow the illegal magnetite mining.

Espino gave Xypher a gratuitous permit but the document specifically disallows the extraction of materials in onshore areas within 500 meters from the coast and 200 meters from the mean low tide level along the beach.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Environmental Management Bureau in Region I has already ordered Xypher to pay P50,000 as penalty for operating without environmental compliance certificate.

The DENR also issued a cease-and-desist order against black sand mining operations of Alexandra Mining and Xypher Builders along the coastal areas of Lingayen Gulf in barangays Sabangan, Malimpuec, Capandanan and Estanza.

EMB Regional Director Joel Salvador said under DENR Administrative Order 2003-30, golf courses have been classified as environmentally critical projects, this requiring an ECC.

“Even assuming that the area was not a part of environmentally critical area, the company’s activities for the purpose of establishing a golf course still needs an ECC,” Salvador said.

The golf course is a part of an eco-tourism project of the provincial government of Pangasinan in the villages of Sabangan, Estanza, Malimpuec and Capandanan in Lingayen.

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