A temporary restraining order (TRO) was issued by a Manila court stopping a conglomerate from transporting thousand of tons of mineral ores to China. The conglomerate stands accused of “illegally extracting” the ores from a property in Camarines Norte.
Based on documents obtained from the court, the Regional Court of Manila issued the hold order on July 3, 2013 after Yinlu Bicol Mining Corporation (Yinlu) filed a petition for injunction and mandamus against officials of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau Regional Office 5 (MGB Region 5) in Legaspi City, Albay; the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), the Bureau of Customs and two companies belonging to the Investwell Group of Co.’s (IGC), Investwell Resources Inc. (IRI) and Investwell Mineral Development Corp. (IMDC) together with the group’s chair, Malaysian Yii Ann Hii.
The petition sought to stop the public officials and the Investwell Group of Co.’s from exporting or allowing the transport mineral ores, particularly iron, which the conglomerate has been accused of illegally mining on a property owned by Yinlu in Jose Panga-niban, Camarines Norte.
The executive judge of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila granted Yinlu’s motion for the issuance of a 72-hour temporary restraining order to prevent the shipment of 28,000 metric tons of minerals then being loaded onboard the Chinese vessel BK Champ.
After a summary hearing, Presiding Judge Paulino Gallegos of RTC Manila-Branch 47, to which the case was raffled, issued an order extending the temporary restraining order by another 17 days.
The leash order is set to expire on July 23. In the meantime, RTC Branch 47 scheduled hearings to hear Yinlu’s application for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction and Investwell’s opposition and motion to lift the TRO.
Last month, Yinlu questioned the action of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the MGB of approving the transfer of a mineral production sharing agreement over properties it owned in Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte, in favor of IRI despite the fact that these government agencies have previously charged Investwell and its officials, including Yii Ann Hii, with “theft of minerals” and “illegal mining”.
Both MGB Region 5 and the Investwell Group of Companies, in their separate public statements issued during the second week of June 2013, sought to assure the public that the Malaysian-led firm has not yet been issued a permit to engage in large-scale mining.
However, on June 17, Invest-well Resources Inc., filed documents with the Bureau of Customs in Legaspi, Albay, declaring the arrival of Chinese vessel, BK Champ, at the Port of Larap, in order to load 28,000 metric tons of iron ore extracted from Yinlu’s property for export to China.
During the hearings at the TRC of Manila on July 12, Antonio Marasigan, Head of Inspection Team of MGB Region 5, testified that Investwell has been extracting minerals from Yinlu’s property as early as the 1st quarter of 2013 despite the fact that the Order partially approving the firm’s mining feasibility study and allowing it to conditionally extract minerals from the property was supposedly issued only on June 13.
Marasigan also confirmed that what Investwell is trying to export to China is processed iron sand or concentrates instead of iron ore in bulk, thus, raising the issue of technical smuggling perpetrated by Investwell.
On the July 10 hearing, the lawyer for Investwell declared in court that the actual value of the shipment of Investwell was $2.6 million instead of $1.2 million it declared with the Bureau of Customs.
Marasigan also admitted that Investwell has yet to submit the documents it was required to file before being allowed to extract minerals from the property.
On the other hand, Napoleon Libarnes, shipping manager of respondent Investwell, admitted on the witness stand that Investwell Mineral Development Corp. has shipped minerals from the Larap Port in Jose Panga-niban to China at least 10 times already, even before the controversial transfer of the MPSA in favor of Investwell was approved by the DENR and the MGB earlier this year.
A document presented in court, which was issued by the Philippine Ports Authority Terminal Management Office in Pasacao, Camarines Sur, showed that the shipments made by Investwell started back in 2010 and involved more than 80,000 metric tons of iron ore.