A Malaysian-owned mining firm has put one over the government and may be laughing all the way to the bank after finagling mining rights at the expense of a Filipino mining company.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) officials may have inadvertently granted a mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) to an illegal mining firm with a checkered record.
The real owner of the land for which the mining rights was issued, on Thursday alleged that DENR has ‘anomalously’ granted the MPSA to an ‘illegal miner with a dubious record.’
Yinlu Bicol Mining Corp., which owns the land over which the MPSA was issued, said it would ask the DENR to nullify the MPSA issued to Investwell Group of Companies (Investwell), a conglomerate previously charged with illegal mining and theft of minerals by DENR itself.
“[Granting the MPSA to Investwell] is no different from giving your house’s front door key to the same man that has been caught stealing from you. How this happened in the first place should be investigated. The DENR should withdraw its approval on the assignment of the MPSA in favor of Investwell, lest it appears as the fool considering that the DENR itself is supposedly prosecuting it for its mining laws violations,” lawyer Jobbie Barte, Yinlu Bicol Mining Corporation’s legal counsel said.
“Records show that Investwell was previously charged by local officials as well as by DENR itself and even DILG with illegal mining and theft of minerals. We believe that it is anomalous for DENR to approve the transfer of the MPSA to Investwell because of its dubious record,” said Barte.
He added that, Regional Director Gilbert Gonzales of DENR Regional Office 5 approved sometime in April 2010 an investigation report finding that Investwell, principally owned by Malaysian, Yii Ann Hii, engaged in mining operations in Sitio Dawahan, Barangay Nakalaya, Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte, under small-scale mining permits issued to two individuals using heavy equipment and explosives.
Republic Act (RA) 7076, the People’s Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991, limits the issuance of small-scale mining permits to Filipino small-scale miners or cooperatives of small-scale miners. The law expressly prohibits the use of heavy equipment and explosives in small-scale mining operations.
Investwell and Yii Ann Hii, among others, have also been previously charged by Regional
Director Roland de Jesus of DENR Mines and Geosciences Bureau Office 4 Mimaropa before the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office of Marinduque with “theft of minerals” or violation of Section 103 of RA 7942 in December 2009.
Published reports also show that the same company in July 2012 has been the subject of an investigation by the DILG Office of Internal Security and DILG Region 5 under the late Secretary Jesse Robredo, shortly before his death, for involvement in illegal mining activities in connivance with certain local government officials in Camarines Norte.