Friday, February 10, 2012

Ex-DENR exec hits claims hydraulic mining cannot be stopped

CAGAYAN DE ORO City, Feb. 10, 2012—A staunch environmentalist slammed claims that illegal hydraulic mining in the upstream of Iponan River cannot be stopped because of socio-economic considerations.

A visibly angry Raoul Geollegue, former regional executive director of the Environment department in Northern Mindanao (Region X), criticized the assertion during the Joint Municipal and Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council which tackled the rampant illegal hydraulic mining in the Misamis Oriental side of the Iponan River.
Geollegue said that local government units should be ashamed for allowing hydraulic mining in the Iponan River to wreak havoc to the environment and lives of Cagayan de Oro City and Opol, Misamis Oriental. Most of the illegal hydraulic mining activities in the river is on the Opol side of Iponan River.
When Geollegue was still a regional technical director of DENR-10, (which he later headed as regional executive director), he issued an alarm that the alarming rampant logging and mining activities in the upper water catchment of Cagayan de Oro will result to an Ormoc-like tragedy. This was in 1991.
Geollegue’s worst fears happened last year, or 20 years after his warning.
The environment and natural resources officer of Misamis Oriental, Conrado “Dodong” Sescon, identified 14 persons operating hydraulic machines used in the illegal mining activities along Iponan River, specifically in barangays Bagocboc, Tingalan, Nangcaon and Cauyunan.
Sescon also identified a certain Dulper Gayla and the “Mendoza family” as involved in the hydraulicking activities in Sitio Inapasan, Barangay Bagocboc, Opol, Misamis Oriental.
Those involved in the hydraulicking activities along the Iponan River are using engines that range from 10 horsepower to 24 hp to pump water uphill to destroy a mountain side believed to contain gold nuggets. Hydraulic mining is a form of mining that uses high-pressure jets of water to dislodge rock material or move sediment. Water is redirected into narrow channels, usually canvas or rubberized plastic hoses and out through a giant iron “monitor” or nozzle. The extremely high pressure stream was used to wash entire hillsides through enormous sluices. The resulting water-sediment slurry is directed through sluices boxes to remove the gold.
For a few grams of gold — which benefits only a few individuals — entire hills and mountains are destroyed and the livelihood of those depending on the river and seas are also affected.
“Mining up there affects thousands of fishermen downstream. With this equation, what kind of political will would we need to stop this? We are talking about [a few] families doing hydraulic mining up there. And for us to allow this to happen for the last 20 years is a shame because the Local Government Code states that we are duty-bound to protect the environment,” stressed Geollegue.
Section 16 (General Welfare) of the Local Government Code of the Philippines states that “every local government unit…shall ensure and support, among other things, the preservation and enrichment of culture, promote health and safety, enhance the right of the people to a balanced ecology…”
With all the laws mandating government to protect the environment for the welfare of the public, it is now high time for the people—whether government officials or ordinary citizens—to obey the law.
“Rule of law should prevail and not of men,” said Orlando Ravanera, director of the Cooperative Development Authority-X (CDA-10) and chairperson of the environment watchdog Task Force Macajalar (TFM).
Ravanera said that TFM has a long history of warning the people and raising the awareness of local government officials about the dangers of mining and the destruction of the environment but nobody listened to us.
One politician even told him that they cannot stop mining and logging activities in the hinterlands of the city because the people supporting these are allegedly “powerful” people in government. The same politician, whom he did not name, suggested that these activities should instead be legalized.
“If we legalize illegal mining and illegal logging, then we should also legalize rape, kidnapping, illegal drug dealing,” Ravanera said, adding that there is a big difference between crimes against person and crime against the environment. “If you commit rape or kidnapping, hold-upping, there are only one or two victims. But if you commit a crime against the environment, the victims are thousands.”
In order to finally stop illegal hydraulic mining activities in Iponan River, a holistic and collaborative approach should be undertaken, said Misamis Oriental Vice Governor Norris Babiera.
Babiera admitted that the problem is very complex, thus the need for a holistic and collaborative effort by the local governments of Opol, Misamis Oriental and Cagayan de Oro City.
“The problem is very complex that solving it needs collaborative effort between the Municipal and Provincial council. And we are hoping that Cagayan de Oro will join in this effort since most of the persons operating hydraulic mining are from the city,” he said.
Sescon said that all of those doing hydraulicking activities along the Iponan River in the Misamis Oriental side are residents of Cagayan de Oro City. (Bong D. Fabe)


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