Zambales residents seek relief from mining onslaught

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RESIDENTS of Masinloc town in Zambales province are pleading the Supreme Court (SC) to order a stop to the mining in their province.

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The residents filed a petition seeking Environmental Protection Order against the mining permits issued by the provincial Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane.

They assailed the large-scale mining operations in their province, which operate under illegally issued small-scale mining permits.

The petitioners represented by lawyer Joel Butuyan named the respondents, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon Paje and Ebdane.

They questioned the 94 small-scale mining permits Ebdane granted by using as basis a long-repealed Marcos-era law, Presidential Decree 1899. The petitioners asserted that under Republic Act 7076, small-scale mining operations can only be made in areas declared as “Minahang Bayan.”

They argued that after small-scale mining permits are issued, the actual mining operations conducted in Zambales turn out to be large-scale operations using heavy equipment like backhoe and dump trucks.

They allege that the small-scale mining grantees are merely using the more relaxed requirements for SSMPs to circumvent stricter requirements under the law. The government has suspended issuance of large-scale mining permits pending review of government mining policy.

“It is our belief that a Continuing Mandamus must be issued by the Supreme Court ordering the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the Provincial Government of Zambales to put a stop to these illegal mining activities. It is shameful that people are being used as dummies for small-scale mining permits. Powerful people or groups are actually conducting illegal large-scale mining.

“The Supreme Court needs to issue and Environmental Protection Order to put a stop to all the mining activities of the recipients of these illegal small scale mining permits. We must remember that minerals are non-renewable resources. As long as these mining activities continue to go on unhindered, our country, our people and the province of Zambales will continue losing precious non-renewable resources,” the residents argued.

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