By ACE ALEGRE
BAGUIO CITY — Cagayanos are asking President Rodrigo Duterte’s prompt action in stopping the illegal Cagayan river dredging, they believe is magnetite mining.
The Cagayan Province provincial board finally approved last week a resolution appealing to President Rodrigo Duterte to suspend the dredging operations at the mouth of the Cagayan River in Aparri town. This came after the Department of Public Works and Highways confirmed that it did not issue any permit to the private firm doing the dredging.
Cagayan governor Manuel Mamba, who entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with Pacific Offshore Exploration Inc. (POEI), however, had insisted there is only dredging in the area, not magnetite (black sand) mining.
The MOA entered into by Mamba and POEI was not concurred by the Cagayan provincial board, neither was it provided a copy of the document.
Engr. Mario Ancheta of the DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau, however, maintains that there is no mining but dredging operations that should be sanctioned by the DPWH. “There is sand extraction, but it is not mining but dredging.”
POEI, a firm owned by a Sandigan-convicted town mayor in Region 2, has been dredging the river for months. The company allegedly ships the dredged materials to a reclamation project for an airport in Hong Kong and earns about $50 million monthly. Though according to Gov. Mamba, there is no economic value to it rather it is even helping the province clean the river that had been heavily silted, free of charge.
A cubic meter of sand in Cagayan pegs at P160. “But the sand is given out for free to Hong Kong?” howled a Cagayano, who had been criticizing the inappropriateness of the MOA Gov. Mamba had entered into with the dredging firm.
SP member Mila Lauigan insisted, “this has to be investigated that is why we are appealing to the President to immediately suspend the dredging operation and inquire whether the company has complied with all the requirements before it proceeded with its operation.”
According to the provincial legislator, “the contractor is only extracting black sand and leaves waste (non-mineral sand) material back into the river”, the reason why environmentalists and locals are raising heaven and hell how come Gov. Mamba had been defending POEI’s operations amidst the environmental mess it has been causing.
Mamba, who was then head of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office during the Aquino administration, had been defending the dredging operation as preparation for the reopening the Port of Aparri, which would improve economic and trade relations between Cagayan province and China, and other neighboring Asian countries.
The Cagayan Export Zone Authority (CEZA) had been maintaining a deafening silence on controversial dredging and “export” of the dredged sand to HK.
Even the immigration officials in Cagayan were silent on the presence of foreign workers into the sand barges regularly approaching the shores of Aparri town, including maritime police. # nordis.net / Photo from Gising Cagayan Facebook Page