TUGUEGARAO CITY: A Catholic Church-based anti-mining group has gathered 100,000 signatures from all over Cagayan province against black sand mining in province’s coastal areas and rivers.
Father Jerry Perez, parish priest of the Saint Peter’s Cathedral in Tuguegarao City, said the 100,000 signatures gathered was a response to “our call for President Benigno Aquino 3rd to once and for all cause the stoppage of black sand mining operations in Cagayan.”
Perez said the Federation of Environmental Advocates of Cagayan (FEAC) has submitted the petition to Malacañang.
Tuguegarao Archbishop Sergio Utleg’s opposition to black sand mining has earned strong support, including the signature drive asking the President “to revoke” both national and local government-issued black sand extraction permits.
In a very recent letter, Utleg, who called on the President to revoke all quarrying and mining permits, said that extraction of black sand has been “endangering the lives of the fisherfolk and the ecosystem.”
Perez and other local anti-mining advocates have also warned that the “unabated extraction of black sand” would only expose the land mass of the province’s coastal villages of being “wiped out” in an event of a storm surge.
“They have been removing the shore’s first line of defense from being devoured by the sea,” Perez claimed.
Records show that the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in Region 2 has issued permits to at least 10 companies to quarry black sand along Cagayan’s northern coastlines of Aparri, Buguey and Gonzaga.
But MGB Region 2 Director Mario Ancheta said that the Chinese mining firms which were granted permits to extract black sand in the province are “strictly” operating in compliance with mining regulations.
”We don’t allow these [mining]firms to operate within the prohibited zone of 200-meter distance from the shoreline contrary to claims by anti-mining groups,” Ancheta said.
He said that any activity within the prohibited zone are only for purposes of clearing of coastlines and rivers of silt and that black sand mining is only conducted in selected areas which are immediately rehabilitated as mandated by existing mining laws.
In Gonzaga town, despite opposition and criticisms from anti-mining groups, the local government has allowed “responsible black sand mining” and has collected its share of P300 million in local taxes for the past three years.
Mayor Carlito Pentecostes Jr. said the revenue went to the construction of various infrastructure projects such as school buildings, health facilities and supplies, concreting of barangay roads, improvement of sports facilities, public market, the municipal building, and tourism and recreation facilities.
“We are for responsible black sand mining while we continue to protect our natural resources as well as rehabilitate the ones, which need rehabilitation. We see to it that there is a balance between sustainable utilization of our resources and economic prosperity,” Pentecostes said in a statement.
Cagayan’s northern coastlines is rich in black sand or magnetite which commands a high price in foreign markets. It is used as additive in manufacturing concrete and steel products, magnets, paint, ink, paper, jewelry and cosmetics.