TUGUEGARAO CITY: Local officials in Calayan Island in Cagayan had sought for the provincial government to step in and conduct immediate investigation on reported magnetite exploration by foreign vessels in Camuigin Island, some four hours boat ride off the island town of Calayan.
Vice Mayor Florencio de Guzman of Calayan said the local legislative body passed Resolution 54 to “unravel the mysterious black sand mining activities and to reveal the real situation and condition in the island.”
De Guzman clarified that since the reported sightings of said foreign vessels “there has never been black sand mining activities in the island, legal or illegal as no permit or clearance, verbal or written, were issued by the LGU [local government unit].”
He said the alleged black sand mining activity in the island was the subject of broadcasters and mediamen which castigated officials and accused them as “protectors” of black sand mining operators in the island.
”[B]roadcast reports have become viral on social media which has put [me]and the rest of the elected officials in an uncomfortable situation and has somehow tarnished [our]reputation as environmentalists,” de Guzman said.
The vice mayor explained why they have come up with the resolution calling on the attention of Gov. Alvaro Antonio “to conduct an immediate investigation on the reported black sand mining activities.”
It was on June 26, according to a joint reports from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), when a foreign vessel marked Monte Cristo II was spotted within the vicinity of Camiguin but left on June 28.
And on June 29, another foreign vessel marked She Hai Yuh122 with 12 Taiwanese crew, owned by Hai Wen Shipyard Company of Taiwan, arrived in the island and departed on July 1.
Reports said the vessels allegedly gathered samples of black sands and both vessels were believed to have come from Aparri town where illegal magnetite extraction activities have been operating for the last three years.
“We want to know who ordered the vessels to come and take samples of our resources,” de Guzman said.
Calayan Island belongs to the Babuyan group of islands composed of four other islands namely Calayan (town proper), Camiguin, Babuyan Claro and Dalupiri. The coastline of all the islands are coral white sand beaches; active volcanoes in Camiguin caused the presence of magnetite sands.
There are at least five volcanoes in Calayan Island including the more famous Mount Didicas, an active underwater volcano in the main island. Camiguin also boasts of Mount Camiguin, the biggest among the volcanoes.
The world’s rarest bird species, the Calayan Rail (Garillalus calayanensis), was accidentally discovered by wildlife biologist Carmela Espanola in 2003 in Calayan Island. In 2008, Women In Travel Group has declared its Sibang Cove situated on an ancient burial grounds as “newest unexplored destination in the country.”
Very recently, the Black Sand Mining Task Force under the Office of the President in collaboration with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Mine and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and other law enforcement agencies with “cease-and-desist orders” raided illegal black sand mining firms along the shorelines of northern Cagayan province.
Mario Ancheta, MGB director for Region 2, said these mining companies in Aparri and Buguey towns were found operating within the 200-meter prohibited zone from the shorelines.
Ancheta said charges were also filed against 18 Chinese who were rounded up by the NBI and MGB operatives earlier this month in Barangays Dodan and Paddaya in Aparri coastal town allegedly engaged in the illegal extraction of black sand there.
Earlier Secretary Manuel Mamba, head of the Cagayan Black Sand Mining Task Force has warned influential politicians who are in cahoots with the illegal operation of lack sand mining in Cagayan.