LINGAYEN, Pangasinan: Officials of some coastal villages in this town trooped Thursday to the provincial capitol here to belie claims that black sand mining has been going on in their communities.
This developed as concerned provincial officials dismissed the exhumed black sand issue as “old hat being resurrected by the governor’s critics and detractors.”
In a press conference held here, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Mines and Geosciences Bureau (DENR-MGB) regional director Carlos Tayag denied news stories claiming that there was black sand or magnetite sand extraction in the ecotourism zone.
Tayag issued the denial after MGB engineers visited the area covering four barangay in Lingayen namely Sabangan, Estanza, Malimpuec, and Capandanan and reported that there was no sign or actual black sand mining operations going on as opposed to the news reports.
The provincial housing and urban development coordinating officer said that there was no activity in the area as they were still preparing all the necessary documents to obtain permits for the implementation of the ecotourism project.
On January 2, 2013, the proposed Lingayen Golf Course within the eco-tourism project received the Environmental Compliance Certificate from the DENR. The official pointed out that the magnetite stockpile remained untouched in the area.
Meanwhile, Kagawad Vicente Oliquino of Barangay Sabangan told reporters during a press conference here that he was mulling filing of appropriate charges against the instigations of the “malicious” news reports for dragging his name into the controversy.
Oliquino, who is also president of the Aro Mo Ako Sambayanan (Aromas) was reported earlier as one of the complainants in a graft case filed against top Pangasinan officials including Gov. Amado Espino Jr. in connection with the alleged black sand mining.
Oliquino and his peers categorically denied during the press conference that he and his group have urged the Office of the Ombudsman to expedite resolution of their complaint.
Other barangay officials who joined Oliquino in disavowing their involvement in the controversy were barangay chairmen Diosdado Santiago Jr. of Capandanan, Romeo Manuel of Sabangan, Hipolito Perez of Estanza, and Delfin Velasco of Malimpuec.
They explained that provincial officials have enlightened them about the necessity to extract magnetite minerals, also referred to as black sand, from the areas covered by the ongoing construction of an eco-tourism project being spearhead by the Espino administration.
Since the project involved a proposed world-class golf course, it was necessary to remove the magnetite to allow turf grass and other ornamental plants to grow.
“What black sand mining are they talking about?” provincial housing and urban development coordinating officer Alvin Bigay commented, reacting to the news reports about the alleged black sand mining in a coastal village in Lingayen. “There was never black sand mining in Lingayen.”
He explained that what was mistakenly viewed as black sand mining was part of the preparations for the construction of a golf course—unwanted elements, including magnetite sand (black sand), have to be extracted to allow grass and other vegetation to grow.
Bigay added that the extraction was allowed by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) as part of the golf construction process.
Earlier, Carlos Tayag said that the extraction of the magnetite or black sand was necessary because turf grass would not thrive on magnetite sand.
For his part, provincial information officer Orpheus Velasco recalled that the issue was used by the political opposition in Pangasinan in an attempt to thwart Espino’s reelection.