Letter to Secretary Roxas on blacksand mining in Cagayan

September 20, 2013

Honorable Mar Roxas
Department of Interior and Local Government
A Francisco Gold Condominium II
Edsa, Quezon City
Government of the Philippines

Philip Francisco D. Uy
Head Executive Assistant
DILG National Office

A Letter of Grave Concern and Collective Appeal Requesting Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas to stop all black sand mining activities in Cagayan province

DILG Secretary Mar Roxas,

Warm greetings from the rural people and marginalized fisherfolk of Cagayan Province!

Secretary Mar Roxas we humbly submit this letter of grave concern and collective appeal in response to the relentless attack of black sand mining operations in Cagayan province. Mr. Secretary, the catastrophic and extreme danger posed by magnetite mining across Cagayan province should not be ignored, and in fact, should be addressed correctly and decisively to further avoid economic loss, stop epidemic of health related diseases and mass destruction of the water environment.

In particular Honorable Secretary, we strongly urge your honorable office to order the immediate halt and urgent cancellation of all black sand mining operations in Cagayan province to save the people and the environment and keep they away from harm’s way.

Honorable Secretary, the non-stop magnetite mining in eight (8) towns of Cagayan Province as sanctioned by local government units (LGUs) across-the-province is scoring day-to-day giant kill on the livelihood of small fisherfolk and the natural environment, and if not stopped, the situation will become totally uncontrollable, and the damage more far reaching than ever.

For the information of the DILG, since 2007, small fishermen and residents had called the attention of the national government, the local government units of Cagayan province and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to stop this plunder and destruction all over the province.

Mr. Secretary, we know, you are not strange to the growing protest against black sand mining in Cagayan and other provinces in the North. Since the invasion of magnetite mining in Cagayan and in the entire Northern Luzon, affected fishermen and residents had been sending different government agencies including local government units and Malacanang voluminous petitions to stop black sand mining.

Formal complaints had also been filed against the LGUs of Buguey, Sta. Rita, Lal-Lo, Gonzaga, Sta.Ana, Aparri and Calamaniugan and their partners in crime in the black sand mining community before the local court and the Office the Ombudsman—- all echoing the same demand which is to decisively stop these disaster and calamity driven operations along the Cagayan River and coastlines.

It is also public knowledge that the attention of the national government, the local government officials and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources had been repeatedly called to end magnetite mining in Cagayan River and the coastal towns surrounding the province due to its dreadful effects to fishing, health and environment, but the people’s collective appeal fell on deaf ears.

Honorable Secretary, the effects of blacksand mining operations in Cagayan province whether they are sanctioned or not by LGUs are life threatening and extremely annihilating. The Cagayano fisherfolk have been complaining about huge reduction in fish catch from a high average of 15 kilos per day to two to three kilos (2-3 kilos) per day due to magnetite mining. The residents have been complaining about houses being crumbled or swept away to the shores because the sand underneath it are getting eroded.

Mr. Secretary, please take note of the findings of the Federation of Environmental Advocates of Cagayan (FEAC) about the perennial shrinking of rice fields which resulted to huge drops in harvests because the rice fields were inundated by saltwater.

Mr. Secretary, organized local communities argued there is “collusion” among government officials from village level to the province. They also suspected some legislators representing their province of “protecting” all these allegedly illegal black sand mining operations. Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, they said, seems to be one of the biggest protectors, considering that all the hauled off black sand in Cagayan pass through the Enrile-owned Cagayan Special Economic Zone before being exported.

Honorable Secretary Roxas, no other than Archbishop Sergio Utleg had joined the protest against black sand mining in the province. A collective demand had been sent to the Office of the President urging Malacañang’s Cagayan Black Sand Mining Task Force to effect an immediate and indefinite halt on all black sand mining operations in the province, investigate and prosecute powerful people and entities responsible for the across-the-Cagayan province disaster due to magnetite mining.

Honorable Secretary Roxas, according to Cagayan based environmental advocates, at least 53,684 hectares of coastal lands and foreshore areas in Cagayan are currently covered by magnetite mining operations that had persistently caused the erosion of northern coastline and the riverbanks of Cagayan River.

Mr. Secretary, environmental groups such as Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment had concluded that black sand mining operations, regardless of whether they are legal or not, contributed to the depletion of fisheries, salt water and chemical intrusion into the freshwater table, and worsened flooding in coastal and riverside communities.

To further inform you about the devastating impact of black sand mining, an environmental Investigation Mission (EIM) conducted by the Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines in cooperation with other groups conducted a national fact-finding mission on four municipalities of Cagayan Province from September 18-19, 2010. The black sand mining mission was done in the municipalities of Camalaniugan, Lal-lo and Aparri, and it concluded that the worsened flooding was due to bank erosion.

Mr. Secretary, the same was observed in the magnetite mining-affected coastal communities in the municipalities of Gonzaga and Aparri, because of the destruction of sand dunes and the disruption of the coastal sediment budget.

The EIM also affirmed that magnetite mining contributed to the depletion of fisheries supply. The probe noted observations of locals that fresh water mollusk known locally as Unnok and fish locally known as Ludung were reported to have drastically decreased in supply with the start of black sand mining.

Honorable Secretary, these findings were further confirmed in a 2012 Environmental and Social Risk Appraisal (ESRA) led by Kalikasan PNE last September 8-10, 2012. Fish kills were reported by local fisher folk in the Buguey Lagoon, where 50 percent of their local Malaga cultures perished between January and February 2012.

The ESRA also noted that seven out of nine villages they surveyed were manifesting salt water intrusion, foul odor and discoloration and chemical contamination of deep wells and other fresh water supplies. These, in turn, affect their supply of potable water, their agricultural land and crop quality.

In the interest of the Cagayanos and the Filipino public, we ask the honorable office of Secretary Mar Roxas to intervene in favor of the affected fisherfolk and residents and utilize the constitutional and other legal powers vested on the office of the DILG to urgently stop or indefinitely suspend all blacksand mining in Cagayan.

Sincerely yours,

Vice Chairperson
National Office
No. 56 K-9th Street
Barangay West Kamias
Quezon City, Philippines
Contact No: 0632-426-9442

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