A MINING company owned by allies of Liberal Party (LP) presidential bet Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd continues to operate illegally in Agusan del Norte, a group said on Thursday.
The mining firm, San Roque Metals Inc. (SRMI), is owned by Francis “Eric” Gutierrez. One of the company’s shareholders is Caloocan City (Metro Manila) Rep. Edgar Erice, an LP stalwart.
Rodney Basiana, owner of Basiana Mining Exploration Corp., urged Roxas to “right the wrongs” committed by SRMI. The LP standard-bearer was reported to have used planes owned by Gutierrez.
Basiana said his group was the original claimant to the mine area in Tubay town but then Rep. Edelmiro Amante convinced them to give the mining right to SRMI. In exchange, Basiano will be paid five percent of SRMI’s sale per year.
“Katunayan nagbayad sila sa amin noon ng P4.6 million lang, hanggang five shipments lang yung bayad nila sa amin pero after nun wala na. Nag start yung operation March of 2006, 10 years na sila hindi nagbabayad sa amin [At first they paid us P4.6 million, but they only paid for five shipments, and then nothing. They started operating in March 2006, they haven’t paid us anything in 10 years],” Basiano said during a news briefing.
“Kaya umabot kami sa ganito dahil sana maitama ni Secretary Mar Roxas ang napakalaking kamaliang ginagawa ng mga supporters niya at mga kaibigan niya. Ang pagpunta namin dito ay walang pulitika kundi personal [That’s why we ended up here. We hope Secretary Mar Roxas can help correct this big mistake being committed by his supporters and friends. Politics is not the reason why we are here, this is purely personal],” he added.
“Yung mga planes at helicopter na nabili lahat yun income ng property namin. Hindi na nagbayad, inagaw nila sa amin, kinuha pa yung mining rights. Sabi nila may shared profit kami. Ang mga funds na nakukuha niya [Roxas] from his campaign hindi niya alam kung saan nanggagaling [The planes and helicopters that they purchased came from income from our property. They refuse to pay us, they grabbed what is ours, they even got our mining rights. They assured us that we will share in the profits. Roxas is not aware where the funds that he gets for his campaign come from],” Basiana told reporters.
Agusan del Norte provincial officials and residents of Tubay have asked SRMI to stop its illegal operation because the company was not able to pay its municipal taxes and business fees amounting to P100 million. It also reportedly failed to pay extraction fees amounting to P120 million, as well as the one percent royalty fees for the lumad, the accredited tribal sectoral leaders of indigenous communities in Tubay.
SRMI was able to get a small-scale mining permit but it reportedly mines 1.8 million tons of ore per year.
An environmental group, Caraga Watch, filed a case against the firm for overextraction and massive destruction of the environment.
Under the Small-Scale Mining Act (Republic Act 7076) and the Philippine Mining Act (RA 7942), firms granted small-scale mining permits are not allowed to use any heavy equipment or explosives.
Because it violated the law, SRMI was ordered closed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in 2006. The agency also fined the company P7 million.
The company contested the case, giving a different interpretation, insisting that the 50,000 metric tons limit pertained to nickel and cobalt in their purest form and excluded soil and other materials.
Last year, the Supreme Court rejected SRMI’s interpretation.
Basiana’s lawyer, Elvin Grana, said it is ironic that despite SRMI’s many violations, it was recently recognized by President Benigno Aquino 3rd who gave an environmental award to the mining firm.
He added that the government has not lifted a finger to stop the firm’s illegal operation.