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Barrage of mining operations feared to make Caraga a 'ghost region'

Shortening the time in acquiring mining permits in the country is both bad and sad news for communities protecting environment and will bring sooner the Philippine's Mining Capital, Caraga Region, lived up to its name -- a ghost region.

Environmental groups claimed that the barrage of mining activities in Caraga Region had made some portions of the once high, towering and mighty "Red Mountain" in the boundary of Surigao provinces an instant "swimming pool".

The word "Caraga" was derived from Visayan term "Kalag," which means in English "Ghost" or "Spirits",

Former Butuan City Rep. Charito Plaza, principal author of the law creating Caraga Region, said all legislators at that time who crafted the "Caraga Bill" was that Caraga Region would be land of the "brave spirits" ready to undertake whatever challenges that come its way.

Environmental groups, Legal Rights Center (LRC) headed by U.P. law professor Marvic Leonen and Kasama sa Kalikasan/Friends of the Earth Philippines headed by lawyer Cocoy Rebuta, who is based in Cagayan de Oro City, said in a press statement that the glaring implications to this development were the ever increasing relevant conflicts around the access to, control and use of Caraga's natural resources in the uplands, lowlands and coastal marine areas.

They also said that escalating community resistance against development of mining projects in Caraga Region was not an isolated story, saying it might have already disappeared mysteriously and died, especially among indigenous people and upland settlers who tied to protect their land rights.

In a press statement, the groups said that newly-installed environment and Natural Resources Secretary Horacio Ramos would not serve the cause of "rational conservation, development and utilization of threatened natural resources".

They also said that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), supposedly an office mandated to protect and conserved Caraga's God-given resources, was selling the resources to foreign corporations/ transnational corporations in the form of mining permits and cutting trees, through logging in the guise of plantations and bio-fuel projects in the form of corporate agricultural farm like maize, cassava and jethropa.

The groups said the mining operation of Marcventures Mining Development Corp. would affect coastal and agricultural food as shown by the checkpoint established by residents of Cantilan in Surigao del Sur to prevent the mining company from transporting mineral ores to the nearby wharf.

In Anislagan, a small village in Placer town, province of Surigao del Norte, the Anislagan women for the last nine years have been in the frontline opposing the mining exploration activities of Manila Mining Corp. and Anglo–American Plc.

Disgruntled communities are ever present all over the logging areas of PICOP, Ventura, SUDECOR in Surigao del Sur and Lanuza, Madrid, Carmen, Tandag — all part of Surigao del Sur, said the groups in their press statement.

Earlier, Ramos said that what used to take mining firms to secure necessary permits have been cut from 15 weeks to just 10 weeks.

Ramos issued DENR Memorandum Order 2010-04, directing the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) to speed up the granting of mining contracts and permits and sanitize the mining applications while strengthening the compliance requirements of companies.

The move was in line with the thrust of the government to revitalize mining in the Philippines to further boost the country's mining industry by cutting down the processing time for new exploration permit and mineral agreement for initial exploration activity.

Ramos was the longest director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) until his appointment last March 2010. MGB has regulatory supervision over mining operations. He is credited with making government's policy regime friendly to investments into minerals development or the mining czar in the Philippines.

Under the memorandum, application for a new exploration permit or a mineral agreement for an initial exploration activity that have complied with all pertinent requirements shall be approved within 10 weeks from the date of acceptance of the application. (BS/PIA-Caraga)

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