MAC: Mines and Communities

Vizcaya council shuts door to mining

Published by MAC on 2004-02-01

Vizcaya council shuts door to mining

By Melvin Gascon and Ben Moses Ebreo, Inquirer News Service

Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya -- A committee of the provincial development council (PDC) banned actual mining operations in the province, ignoring President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's recent order promoting mining in the country.

Voting 4 to 1, the six-member PDC executive committee also rejected an endorsement by its economic development committee to promote mining as one of the "investment opportunities" in Nueva Vizcaya.

The move came even as the President ordered the revitalization of the mining sector in the country, following a shift in government policy from tolerance to full support of the industry.

Executive Order 270 outlined a national policy agenda that aimed to promote responsible mineral resources exploration, development, and use to enhance economic growth.

But the latest PDC resolution virtually shut the door to future mining operations in the province, according to Gov. Rodolfo Agbayani, council chair.

"Ongoing explorations may be continued but only until the permits expire. But actual mining operations would no longer be allowed from hereon," he added.

At present, at least three areas in Kasibu town are covered by exploration permits. One area is covered by a financial and technical assistance agreement (FTAA) that covers a big portion of Kasibu, including the ore-rich village of Didipio.

Agbayani said the PDC stand would now make it difficult for investors to initiate mining activities in the province because of the legal requirement on the social acceptability, especially in indigenous communities.

The PDC decision would be elevated to the executive committee of the regional development council, which determines the stand of each of Cagayan Valley region's five provinces on mining as an "investment priority."

Jerrysal Mangaoang, Mines and Geosciences Bureau regional chief, however, said they would appeal the PDC committee decision.

"What we are asking is for the entire membership of the PDC to join the deliberations, before they make the decision. This would also allow us (in the mining sector) to explain our side," he said.

Expected to be adversely affected by the PDC move is the controversial application of Climax Arimco Mining Corp. (CAMC) for a gold-copper project in Barangay Didipio in upland Kasibu, some 60 km from here.

Jose Leviste Jr., CAMC-Philippines chair, downplayed the PDC decision. "The vote was made by (the executive committee) of PDC, not the (entire) PDC. (The executive committee) is meant to monitor projects of the PDC, not to be the PDC," he said.

He lamented that the mining company was not given a chance to air its views on the issue before the PDC committee made the ruling.

Earlier, Bishop Ramon Villena of the Bayombong and Quirino diocese appealed to provincial officials to reject the bid of CAMC to extract gold and copper deposits in Barangay Didipio in Kasibu town.

In a letter dated Jan. 21 to Agbayani and members of the PDC executive committee, Villena assailed a decision of the economic development committee to endorse mining as one of the priority investments in Cagayan Valley.

"I personally feel that this resolution will now open the proverbial gates to mining activities in our region and particularly in our province," he said.

Cagayan Valley region is composed of the provinces of Batanes, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino.

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