Cong. Sarmiento Files Bill Declaring Catanduanes a “Mining-Free” Zone

Congressman Cesar V. Sarmiento has filed House Bill No. 4915 that seeks to declare the province of Catanduanes as a mining-free zone and prohibiting all mining operations therein.

Google Earth tour of Taganito mine in Claver, Surigao del Norte. For educational and visualization purpose only.

The solon clarified that under the proposed Act, mining shall refer to the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth and shall include such mining activities as exploration, feasibility,development, utilization and processing and large-scale quarry operations involving cement, raw materials, marble, granite, sand and gravel construction aggregates.

minaili, catanduanes However,the proposed law exempts from coverage the quarrying of gravel and sand for projects directly undertaken by national agencies or by the provincial government for basic services, subject to the requirements of existing mining and environmental laws. Under the proposed measure, violators will be penalized with imprisonment of six to 12 years and a fine of P100,000.00 to P500,000.00.

In his explanatory note, Rep. Sarmiento said that mining, as one of the most environmentally destructive industries, has been statistically proven to be harmful not only to the environment but also to humans, with damages irreversible.

He cited the Department of Energy’s award of 15,000 hectares of forest land for coal mining exploration to Monte Oro Resources Energy Inc. in 2007 and 2008 that was roundly opposed by the church and concerned citizens. “There is a continuing threat that sooner or later, Catanduanes will eventually become a mining zone,” Sarmiento stressed.

The congressman said Catanduanes has the largest remaining natural forest cover in the Bicol region and is home to various biodiversity species, with the DENR listing it as one of the most important biodiversity areas of the province. “It is for these reasons that the State needs to preserve and safeguard, as the Constitution mandates, the beauty and richness of the province and its people from the harsh effects of mining,” Sarmiento emphasized.

bagamanoc catanduanes The congressman’s bill echoes a similar ordinance filed by Provincial Board Member Jose Romeo Francisco before the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

The proposed provincial ordinance will ban small and large-scale mining, exploration, land clearing, prospecting, drilling, excavation, transport of mineral ores and products and such other activities in Catanduanes for a period of 25 years. Exempted from the ban are quarry activities in pursuit of revenue power of the province under RA 7160.

Under PBM Francisco’s proposal, the local government unit will have direct charge in the administration and disposition of mineral lands and mineral resources, including the approval or cancellation of mining applications. It will likewise be allowed to deputize any member of the PNP, barangay, accredited NGOs or any qualified person to police all mining activities. Violators of the ordinance will be meted a penalty of P5,000.00 and/orimprisonment of one month but not more than six months at the discretion of the court.

Source: Catanduanes Tribune - 21 August 2011