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Caraga Politicians behind mineral smuggling

A ranking official of the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group (PASG) in the Caraga said Saturday politicians were behind the unabated smuggling of minerals out of the region.

Philip Placer, PASG director for Caraga, said this was what came out of the PASG’s continuing investigation of mineral smuggling in the region, which is composed of the mineral-rich provinces of Agusan del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Dinagat.

Dubbed as the country’s new mining capital, Caraga reportedly holds half of Mindanao’s mineral deposits. It is touted to have $2 billion worth of gold deposits, and huge deposits of nickel and chromium ores.

“Politicians were behind the mineral smuggling activities in our region,” Placer said.

He said the politicians, who he declined to identify, were the main reason the “highly organized smuggling rings” continue to thrive.

Placer said PASG agents continue to gather more evidence against the politicians amid threats.

The smuggling rings, he said, were clever enough to use small-scale and large scale mining firms as dummies to avoid detection.

“At least 20 small-scale mining firms all over the region with known ties to politicians have been under investigation for suspected mineral smuggling to Japan, Australia, China and India,” he said.

Placer said the PASG is zeroing in on the provinces of Dinagat and Agusan del Norte because these have recorded the highest number of smuggling cases.

“Practically, mineral smuggling exists in all five Caraga provinces but the operations were most rampant in the provinces of Dinagat and Agusan del Norte,” he said.

Placer said the government has already lost millions of pesos in revenues due to the illegal transport of highly priced minerals such as gold, copper, manganese, chromite and nickel ores out of the country.

“Livelihood and income generation-wise, the mining industry helps but the taxes and revenues for the government coffer were very meager. Out of 100 percent expected revenue, only 25 percent goes to government coffers because of smuggling,” he said.

Placer said PASG expects smuggling to intensify as politicians look for funds to bankroll their campaign for next year’s elections. (Franklin M. Caliguid, inquirer.net)

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