Ombudsman indicts Espino,villagers want concrete wall removed

October 27, 2014 at 3:01 am Leave a comment


BLACK SAND MINING

By Yolanda Sotelo

LINGAYEN – One of the complainants against local officials and businessmen engaged in the illegal black sand mining only wanted the beach be given back to the residents of the four villages.

“Just give us back our beach which is a source of livelihood for the residents who are engaged in fishing, and a source of firewood for cooking,” said Rolando Rea, 72, a resident of Estanza, one of the villages where the illegal black sand mining was done.

He said a three-kilometer long, six-foot high concrete wall was put up along the beach by the provincial government, disabling the residents from going to the beach of the four villages – Estanza, Sabangan, Malimpuec and Capandanan.

The wall was put up to keep prying eyes from noticing the illegal activities, he said

Rea, 72, said he regularly followed up the case at the Ombudsman, said even if he was the only complainant left and despite receiving death threats, he would continue to pursue the case.

The Ombudsman indicted Pangasinan Governor Amado Espino Jr., Provincial Administrator Rafael Baraan, Cynthia Camara and Lolita Bolayog of Alexandra Mining and Oil Ventures, Inc (Alexandra Mining).
The four are facing two counts of violations of anti-graft and corrupt practices act or Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019.
It was Aromas (Aro mo ako sambayanan), a group of village officials and residents, which filed the case on January 2013 for abuse of authority, neglect of duty, violation of the local government code, and graft and corruption charges
One of the vocal critics of the illegal black sand activities, Sabangan Councilman Vicente Oliquino, did not take calls from the Inquirer, nor sent text messages back. Rea said Oliquino, Aromas’ president, and other complainants, are now under Espino’s employ.
Rea said those involved in the black sand mining put up a six-foot, three-kilometer long concrete wall which blocked entry of residents to the beach.
“The concrete wall is still there, and fishermen and residents who collect drift woods to use as firewood, have to go around it to reach the beach. Some use stairs to climb up,” he said.
The Ombudsman also filed anti-graft cases against Pangasinan Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Officer Alvin Bigay, Alexandra Mining Directors Cesar Detera, Edwin Alcazar, Denise Ann Sia Kho Po, Annlyn Detera, Glenn Subia and Emiliano Buenavista and Michael Ramirez, Gina Alcazar and Avery Pujol of Xypher Builders, Inc.
In a joint resolution, the Environmental Ombudsman cited that Presidential Proclamation No. 1258 ( 1998) declared Lingayen Gulf as an environmentally critical area and expanded the scope of the protected area to cover the barangays of Sabangan, Estanza, Malimpuec and Capandanan, reserving a protected area of 184 hectares for eco-tourism and other sustainable development activities and projects.
Upon assumption as Governor in June 2007, Espino crafted the Site Development Plan that would turn the area into an eco-tourism complex, with the development of two 18-hole golf courses at par with international standards.
He then entered into a negotiated contract with Alexandra Mining with soil remediation activities conducted in Barangay Sabangan as pilot area.

On 29 June 2011, a Small Scale Mining Permit (SSMP) was issued in favor of Alexandra Mining. Barely three weeks later, Baraan issued a Notice of Cancellation of the SSMP and ordered Alexandra Mining to vacate the area.
On 08 August 2011, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was entered into between Espino and Xypher Builders for the removal of llic materials from the sand pile already vacated by Alexandra Mining.
Upon request for investigation made by residents of the affected barangays, the investigating team of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources of Region I issued a report on 18 October 2011 recommending that the SSMP in favor of Alexandra Mining be cancelled as it was issued without an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC); that Alexandra Mining be penalized for putting up a mineral processing plant sans ECC; and that a Cease and Desist Order be issued enjoining the mining firm from further extracting beach sand pending the resolution of the issue.
Notwithstanding this, almost a week later or on 26 October 2011, the provincial government issued Gratuitous Permit No. 02-02-2011 authorizing Xypher Buildings and the Provincial Housing and Development Coordinating Office to extract and utilize loose and unconsolidated materials, and recover magnetite sand in Sabangan. On 08 December 2011, Espino issued a Mineral Ore Export Permit in favor of Xypher.
In supporting the indictment for graft, the Environmental Ombudsman discovered that both Alexandra Mining and Xypher Builders are not registered contractors with the Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board, and the ECC was belatedly issued in favor of Baraan for the Lingayen Golf Course Project only on 02 January 2013. Coincidentally, Alexandra Mining is not registered as a legitimate business establishment in Lingayen.
In approving the Joint Resolution, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales stated that “there is probable cause to charge respondents Epino and Baraan for violation of Section 3(e) of RA 3019 for authorizing unlawful magnetite extraction activities in favor of an unqualified contractor/mining company,” adding that “by reason of the precipitate and irregular issuance by respondent Espino of the export permit to China, the State lost minerals in the conservative amount of P10.7 million.”
Aside from the criminal indictments, Baraan and Bigay were found administratively liable for Grave Misconduct and meted out the penalty of dismissal from the service, with the accessory penalties of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and perpetual disqualification from reemployment in the government service.

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Entry filed under: News.

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