by KYLE EDWARD FRANCISCO
VIGAN CITY – Environmental groups in Ilocos Sur welcomed the action taken by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to return the stockpile of magnetite concentrates in Caparacadan, Caoayan to the beach.
The relentless lobbying of environmental and religious groups in the province and vigilance of the affected communities put pressure on the Department of Justice and the DPWH to pursue the redistribution of the mineral.
According to the head of the First Engineering District Office of the DPWH Engineer Reynaldo Organo, they started their work to return 60,000 tons of magnetite concentrates last April 17. The agency expects to finish their work in a month’s time.
In September 2013, thousands of tons of magnetite concentrates were also returned to the shorelines of San Vicente and Sta. Catalina. Chinese companies illegally mined the minerals from the shorelines of San Vicente, Sta. Catalina and Caoayan with the support of the municipal officials and provincial leadership of Ilocos Sur.
The Social Action Center of Nueva Segovia and Ilocos Network for the Environment (Defend Ilocos) surveyed the progress of the operation on April 29 and noted the lack of proper rehabilitation equipment. A consultation with Engr. Organo also revealed that no comprehensive rehabilitation plans were drawn. He also expressed that the budget provided by their office is not even enough for the ongoing operation and no support came from the local government.
Sister Lilian Carranza, head of the Social Action Center said that while her office welcomes the action, she is very much saddened that the original landscape cannot be returned to its former state. She also expressed her concern on the continuing increasing salinity of wells and drinking water sources experienced by the residents.
Defend Ilocos reiterated their call for the Aquino government to pursue cases against the companies and the local government officials responsible for the destruction. The group also stressed that the lack of proper rehabilitation reflects the lack of seriousness of the local government to address the issue and destruction that they have fervently supported and allowed.# nordis.net