Barely one year into President Noynoy’s administration, local officials and residents of Tubay, Agusan del Norte, complained of the destructive operations of a mining firm in their municipality.
With the advent of Matuwid na Daan, the townsfolk were hoping that the illegal mining which began in 2004 would be stopped.
But it was not until February 2012 that the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) led an “environmental audit” into the activities of SR Metal Inc. and its subsidiaries San R Mining and Construction Corp. and Galeo Equipment and Mining Company, Inc.
This group of companies, owned by Francis Enrico “Eric” Gutierrez, had been cited for violations of the conditions of its small-scale mining permit, limiting its extraction of nickel ores to 50,000 metric tons per year.
MGB director Leo Jasareno led a multi-disciplinary survey of the area and found indications that SRMI committed several violations that endangered the ecosystem.
Environmentalists had expressed doubts that the MGB would investigate and sanction SRMI and the three other mining firms.
But Jasareno pressed the investigation along with representatives from the Bureau of Soils and Water Management, Environmental Management Bureau, University of the Philippines – National Institute of Geological Sciences and Natural Science Research Institute, and Tubay local government.
“That is why we decided to include the members of the academe to prevent any fear of whitewash, and we believe that the team will be able to come up with a credible result,” Jasareno said.
But, the complaints and investigation came to naught as Gutierrez turned out to be a business associate of Caloocan City congressman Edgar Erice, a Liberal Party (LP) big shot.
Erice admitted he was a “minority shareholder” of SMRI since he was Caloocan’s vice mayor.
To the disgust of Tubay’s constituents, Gutierrez turned out to be a major contributor of Noynoy and Mar Roxas’ campaign funds in the 2010 polls.
There goes Matuwid na Daan. Baluktot din pala at kunwari lang malinis!
Local officials decried the harassment allegedly committed by Erice, a member of LP’s national executive committee.
The complaints against Gutierrez’ SRMI group included: Illegal closure of public road, illegal dismissal of workers, failure to provide proper relocation site for displaced residents, and non-payment of business taxes and other fees.
The municipality of Tubay has been demanding of SRMI to pay P100 million in taxes but the firm allegedly refused to comply despite earning billions of pesos.
The team also conducted an aerial survey to evaluate SRMI’s contribution to siltation within the nearby water bodies, causing negative impacts to nearby municipal fish sanctuary and source of potable water.
On June 4 last year, the Supreme Court affirmed an earlier ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA) that the Gutierrez group violated the provisions of Presidential Decree 1899 and Republic Act 7076, “extracting millions of DMTs of run-of-mine ore will mean irreversible degradation of the natural resources and possible landslides and flash floods.”
Former Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino had pushed for a congressional probe of SRMI’s abusive mining but the ruling LP leaders blocked the move.
These events merely demonstrate the extent of corruption and the impunity throughout this administration, even surpassing those of its predecessor.
Gutierrez is untouchable, being a generous Noynoy and Roxas’ financier and Erice’s partner in environmental crime.
Now with less than a year left of Noynoy’s decrepit reign, they are scrambling to hold on to power again raising campaign funds in more crooked ways than one.
Apart from soliciting funds from milking cows like Gutierrez’ erring mining companies, Malacañang has tapped the old hands at the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to boost LP’s booty.
Such insatiable crooks!