VIGAN City, Ilocos Sur, June 9, 2013—The Catholic clergy and faithful of the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia criticized the inaction of the government on the issue of black sand mining in the province.
In protest to the mining activities along the province’s shoreline, Archbishop Ernesto Salgado and the diocesan clergy led the Catholic faithful in a rally against black sand mining last February 9 in front of the Vigan Cathedral.
On February 18, the Catholic clergy and the laity sent a letter to President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III complaining about the illegal mining activities but have not received any action from the government.
Fr. Alfred Rabe, a convener of the group called Ilocos Sur Collection Action for the Protection of the Environment, disclosed to CBCPNews the ongoing destruction of their shorelines because of black sand mining.
“They have been in operation for years in Tagudin and moved to San Vicente to Santa, Caoayan, Sta. Catalina, Sto. Domingo and Magsingal,” he said.
The priest added that despite popular resistance to the destructive ventures, the mining operations have not stopped.
“We believe the activities relative to black sand mining have been unhampered because it is a multi-billion peso business and a product of a partnership between foreign businessmen and local government officials,” Rabe explained.
He recalled writing various government offices complaining about the ill-effects of mining operations but the activities remained.
“We even had a rally at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources where we had a dialogue with Mines and Geosciences Bureau Director Leo Jasareno who declared all mining activities in the province are illegal as they have no permit from his office,” Rabe added.
It was learned Jasareno promised to coordinate with the National Bureau of Investigation to stop all the illegal activities. However, nothing has happened.
Rabe said they are feeling hopeless with the local government’s inaction and their last remaining hope is a favorable action from President Aquino before their shorelines have been totally destroyed.
Asked if he has received any threat from local government officials, Rabe said he has received over 50 threatening messages which he considers as “harassments.”
Sr. Lilian Carranza, OSB, Nueva Segovia’s Social Action Center directress echoed Fr. Rabe’s concerns on the ill effects of black sand mining especially on the livelihood of farmers.
She said farmers would eventually suffer from the entry of saltwater into their vegetable and rice farms if the mining activities continue. (Melo M. Acuna)