MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Biak-na-Bato mining put to a halt

Published by MAC on 2006-06-23

Biak-na-Bato mining put to a halt

By Blanche Rivera, Philippine Daily Inquirer

23rd June 2006

THE government has again suspended the transport of ore from the Biak-na-Bato National Park in Bulacan where marble quarrying is being opposed by the provincial government and environmentalists.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau would not issue a new ore transport permit (OTP) to Rosemoor Mining and Development Corp. (RMDC) until the case lodged by Bulacan officials and antiquarrying groups is resolved, MGB regional director Angel Bravo said.

"It's suspended until the resolution of the case. We have to respect our superior," Bravo said in an interview after a forum at the Manila Pavilion yesterday.

Environment Secretary Angelo T. Reyes has created a committee to investigate allegations that the RMDC did not have an environmental compliance certificate for its quarrying operations and that the acquisition of the firm's Mineral Production Sharing Agreement was anomalous.

The committee, led by MGB executive director Jeremias Dolino, held its first hearing with the representatives of RMDC, Bulacan local government and environmental groups two weeks ago.

Dolino said the committee would finish its review of the allegations next week and would submit its recommendations to Reyes, who will eventually decide whether or not to cancel the permits given to RMDC.

"We can make do with what we have to come up with a decision," Dolino said.Dolino said there has been no activity inside Biak an Bato for the past two weeks, or since the investigation started.

The MGB also did not renew the OTP that allowed RMDC to transport 400 cubic meters of ore last month.

The Bulacan government also wants the DENR to recommend the restoration of the roughly 3,000-ha Biak na Bato to its previous status as a national park. Only about 658 ha of Biak na Bato were declared a national park in 1989. Another 938 ha were declared a watershed forest reserve, 480 ha a forest reserve and 953 ha a mineral reservation.

The MPSA awarded by the DENR under former Environment Secretary Heherson Alvarez to the RMDC allows the company to extract marble from a 330-ha area within the mineral reservation.

Reyes belied the accusation of Bulacan Gov. Josefina de la Cruz that he has become the "blatant enemy of the Filipino people" for allegedly failing to protect the Biak na Bato."

Reyes told the Inquirer on Wednesday that if there is one individual who truly protects our environment and natural resources, it was him. "You cannot find anyone more concern in the protection of our environment more determined and serious than me," he said.

[With a report from Carmela Reyes, PDI Central Luzon Desk]

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