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SC stops Zambales mines; Chinese ‘invaders’ socked

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The Supreme Court yesterday issued a temporary environment protection order (TEPO) against 94 “small-scale mines” that extract nickel in Zambales. Among the “small” mines are at least five fronts of giant nickel miners from China (see Gotcha, 24 July 2013).

 

Allegedly operating outside the allowable area, the mines are illegal, pollutive, unregulated, untaxed, and destabilizing the economy.

The SC en banc acted on a petition of ten Masinloc townsmen for a TEPO against Zambales Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane, the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board, and one Camilo Esico.

Covered by the TEPO are respondents Environment and Natural Resources Sec. Ramon Paje, his Mines and Geosciences Bureau, the Dept. of Interior and Local Government, and the Philippine National Police.

In a 35-page petition filed July 17, the townsfolk decried Ebdane’s granting of small-scale mining permits (SSMPs) outside the officially designated “minahang bayan.” As example, they cited the ones given to Esico in 2010, good for two years, and again in 2012, valid till 2014.

Provincial capitols may issue SSMPs under the People’s Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991. But these are supposed to be within the zone for subsistence miners, who employ only brawn, picks, and shovels.

The Zambales nickel miners in Masinloc and Sta. Cruz towns use sophisticated excavators, crushers, loaders, and explosives. Thousands of dump trucks laden with ore line up the national highway and side roads.

The five Chinese fronts have built a common wharf in Sta. Cruz, betraying the fact that they are one operation. Their mother companies are Jiangxi Rare Earth & Metals Tungsten Group, Wei-Wei Group, and Nihao Mineral Resources Inc. All tainted by bribery reports, they set up the five “small mines” through Filipino dummies.

Other “small” miners deliver ore to the Chinese-built pier, from which sail off four Chinese bulk carriers a week. Processed in China, the nickel is used for hi-tech weaponry and surveillance systems mobilized to sabotage the Philippine military and economy into submission. The Philippines is China’s top supplier of nickel.

Mining pollution of the rivers and seas are forcing fishermen from Masinloc, Sta. Cruz, and Infanta, Pangasinan, to sail farther out to sea. But when they enter the vicinity of the Bajo de Masinloc shoal, Chinese warships shell them back to shore.

China in 2012 grabbed the shoal, also called Panatag, 124 miles west of Zambales. It is well within the Philippines 200-mile exclusive economic zone, but 800 miles from the nearest Chinese coast. Chinese military vessels escort fish poachers from Hainan province, and forbid Filipinos from entering the traditional fishing grounds. China’s creeping invasion of Zambales mainland for nickel began eight years earlier, but worsened only recently.

Aside from Esico’s, Ebdane issued 93 other SSMPs in just one day, on July 12, 2011, the petitioners revealed. He invoked Presidential Decree 1899, but the townsmen said the People’s Small-Scale Mining already had repealed it. But the DENR issued a memo allowing the application of both the Presidential Decree and superseding Republic Act. So the petitioners included Paje as answerable.

Residents of Masinloc-Sta. Cruz-Infanta suffer the worst air pollution in the country due to mining waste, explosives, ore dust, and dump truck emissions. Having the highest morbidity incidence of acute respiratory infections, they have taken to calling the destructive Chinese miners’ abettors “modern-day Makapili” collaborators.

The petitioners said that national and provincial environment officials, and policemen see Esico openly using heavy equipment for his “small-scale” mine. The policemen even escort the trucks and guard the mine gates.

The MGB reports 291 SSMPs to have been issued as of last April 12. Ninety-nine of these are in Zambales alone.

 

The Philippine Star 

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