De Lima calls for Senate investigation on black sand mining in Lingayen Gulf

De Lima calls for Senate investigation on black sand mining in Lingayen Gulf

By Ernie Reyes

MANILA — Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima called for a Senate
investigation on the detrimental and disastrous effects of the
recently approved black sand mining project in Lingayen Gulf.

De Lima filed the Proposed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 920 directing the
Senate Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Climate Change
to investigate the said project’s reported negative environmental and
socioeconomic impact on the surrounding coastal areas in Pangasinan.

“The State is duty-bound to protect the lives and livelihood of its
citizens and uphold existing environmental laws and policies over any
and all transactions and contracts it has entered into with
individuals and entities concerning these environmentally critical
areas (ECAs),” she said.

“Activities which tend to negatively impact and destroy the
environment must always be preceded by a meticulous assessment of their
consequences. Environmental impact studies should also be conducted to
aid both the public and private sectors in chartering the course of
the activities that involve and affect the environment,” she added.

A massive offshore black sand mining project that would run for the
next 25 years in Lingayen Gulf was recently approved, stirring
protests from the local communities in Pangasinan province, calling it
an “environmental monster.”

Provincial Board Member Von Mark Mendoza expressed alarm
after an official of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB)
informed provincial officials that the project’s proponent, Iron Ore,
Gold and Vanadium Resources (Phils.) Inc. will be extracting 25
million tons of black sand annually.

According to a document posted on the EMB website, Malacañang approved
the project, which is covered by Financial and Technical Assistance
Agreement No. 07-2020-IOMR.

The agreement allows the conduct of large-scale exploration,
development and commercial utilization of minerals found within the
areas where Vanadium Resources has obtained the exclusive right to
extract magnetite sand.

“Anumang benepisyong hatid ng ganitong mga negosyo ay balewala o
katiting lamang kung hindi maisasaalang-alang ang kapakanan ng
mamamayan. Higit sa lahat, buhay at ligtas na pamumuhay ang dapat
unahin ng gobyerno,” De Lima said.

“There is a need to ensure that any possible permit issued by the
government takes into account the totality of impact of black sand
mining to the eco-system and the community and that government
officials who sign off on the permits undertake to hold themselves
fully accountable for ignoring clear red flags in the mining
projects,” she added.

In a 2016 study, entitled “Characterization of Black Sand Mining
Activities and Their Environmental Impacts in the Philippines Using
Remote Sensing,” researchers note that black sand mining disturbs
marine and coastal ecosystems and increases erosion and associated
geohazards and warn that coastal erosion often continued to affect the
areas even decades after cessation of the mining activities.

The controversy surrounding the mining industry was stirred when,
in a move intended to spur the pandemic-ridden economy, President
Duterte issued Executive Order (EO) No. 130 last April 15 which lifted
a nearly decade-long moratorium on new mining agreements.

Last May, De Lima filed SR No. 720 directing the appropriate Senate
Committee to conduct an inquiry into the said mining operation in
Zambales as well as a systematic review of all pending and ongoing
large-scale mining projects in the Philippines to determine their
compliance with relevant environmental laws, regulations, guidelines
and procedures.

During her stint as justice secretary, De Lima created a task force
led by the National Bureau of Investigation to lead a crackdown on
several illegal black sand mining operators in Cagayan and Ilocos Sur.
The move led to the filing of charges against several individuals. (ai/mtvn)

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