Sunday, October 2, 2011

Romblon mining financiers have names

The Romblon Sun, in its May 30-June 6 edition, bannered a story expressing the desire of Sibuyan local government officials and anti-mining advocates for the revocation of a contract that allows mineral exploration on Sibuyan Island.

The newspaper did not name the officials, saying only that it has interviewed the mayor of San Fernando, but that is obvious. Mayor Dindo Rios, a good friend, allegedly said that the mineral exploration contract involved the 25-year mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) the national government entered into in 2009 with Altai Philippines Mining.

I have taken a cursory investigation of this in 2009 when the mining controversy erupted after the murder of San Fernando Sangguniang Bayan member Armin Marin. What I had found out is already unspoken public knowledge: elected and non-elected public officials, one way or another, from Rep. Budoy Madrona to the late governor and former congressman Perpetuo Ylagan to Sam Romero and some of his former colleagues in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to former governor Natalio Beltran III, his local mayors, police and environment officials, and even some self-confessed anti-mining advocates in the island, have all interest—and therefore, a hand—in the entry of mining in Sibuyan.

So let us not kid ourselves. Mining—and all the attendant noise and fury spawned by Marin’s murder—would have not registered in the radar of the province if officials of government and some citizens (even some anti-mining advocates!) did not take a glance, and thus, were not blinded, by the shining rays of the nuggets of silver and gold that the mining companies directed to their very eyes.

Here now comes Mayor Rios saying that the MPSA on Sibuyan was a ‘midnight’ deal and the Sibuyan Island Sentinels League for the Environment/Sibuyanons Against Mining (Sibuyan ISLE/SAM) lamenting it as not having passed through “formal and transparent processes at the barangay level.”

Of course, it did not, that’s why it was a ‘midnight’ deal, ano ba kayo?

That was in 2009. Today is 2011 and we are living in a different neighborhood, as Secretary Butch Abad say. Today, P-Noy’s matuwid na daan is the mantra, and part of the reforms the matuwid na daan policy is carrying out is ‘daylight’ transparency on all government transactions.

Corrupt officials in Romblon—and they are plenty and still thriving, if Vice Governor Mel Madrid is to be believed—don’t like ‘daylight’ transparency. They don’t want to be watched. They don’t want to be gossiped about. They are all over—at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, at the capitol, at the munisipyo and the barangays. They are present even at the Provincial Police Office, that’s why they don’t enforce the executive order that Gov. Lolong Firmalo has issued halting mining in the province.

Halting mining. I like this phrase because, first of all, Firmalo cannot enforce his order alone. He has to get the cooperation of the police and the local executives, cooperation which obviously not forthcoming. Ask the task force that he ordered created last year. This task force, which looks very good on paper, has yet to be constituted and has yet to meet.

Halting mining rings a bell because the PPO—led by Police Sr. Supt. Leo Tumolva—is apparently in cahoots with the miners, as evidenced by this text message from a Romblon Sun reader:

"Wla na tlagang pagasa na mhinto pa ang mina d2 sa magdiwang. Panu kc, mlaki ang share na nattangap mg myor mula sa mga financier ng mina. My aakyat nga n mga pulis dun sa bundok kaso pgdating dun wla na clang aabutan panu naitxtna kya sayang lang ang effort ni gov Firmalo na ipahinto ang mina ditto sa Magdiwang. Sna d lng s slita aksyunan n tlaga pagpahinto ng pgmina d2. Crang cra na talaga ang bundok ng Magdiwang dahil s mga illegal mining—0948706****

There you go.

Well, I have it on good authority that PSSupt. Tumolva is getting a handsome gasoline allowance from the governor as well as free board and lodging, but is the police director enforcing the law as he should? That’s my quiz for the week. Is he also receiving bribes from the miners? Ask him, Awe Eranes.

I have it also on good authority that Gov. Firmalo, when confronted by the dilly-dallying behavior of his provincial police director, responds that he has already recommended for his relief, or a replacement, but this is incorrect as my informant confessed. No less than DILG Secretary Jess Robredo, said the informant, denied this. Sus Maria Santisima.

In the meantime, let us grant the good governor the benefit of the doubt, in the same manner that we should grant Rep. Budoy the same benefit, that he is serious in his anti-mining stance.

But let us not doubt the Romblon Sun reader who texted the above message. Let us assume he/she was telling the truth about local officials and the police getting bribes from the mining financiers. And who are these financiers?

Last week, someone forwarded to me a text message (I will not mention the mobile phone number) naming names. Here goes the text message:

"Sir gud afternoon e2 ung mga lstahan ng mga fnancier noli patino. Boni patino. Gene patino. chito robea. perla rabino. pociano rabino. Erwin mesajon. buban. elmer rivas. antonio menese. Nag call s akn c dr bgay lhat pngaln nla. Ipalu up u rn s knya.

On this note, how I wish Rep. Madrona is not grandstanding when he filed House Bill No. 4415, “An Act Declaring the Province of Romblon a Mining Free Zone and Providing Penalties for Violations Thereof.”

But he is, sad to say, if I know the legislative process.

It will take some time to pass that bill into law. Budoy knows this. His bill must undergo the scrutiny of public hearings under the auspices of the appropriate committee to which his bill has been referred. That committee has to write a committee report, which has to be approved before it can be reported to the floor for debates. At the floor, the bill will undergo amendments before it can be approved in its third and final reading.

If the House approves of Budoy’s bill, it will be sent to the Senate where a counterpart bill has also to be filed and to undergo the same process. If the Senate approves its own version of the bill, it will be sent to the bicameral conference committee—the so-called “Third Chamber” of Congress—where both bills will be reconciled on its conflicting provisions, if there’s any.

If approved in the bicameral conference committee, it will be reported back to the House and the Senate for ratification after which it will be enrolled and sent to the President’s desk for his signature.

I reckon this process will take three years, unless our good congressman lobbies hard for its enactment. But is he? Nah. So, he is grandstanding. He knows it will take a long time to have his bill approved. He knows that his bill is only good for press release, to fool gullible Romblomanons that he is serious.

In filing his bill, he knew the fat cats of the mining lobby will troop to his office. The lobbyists, I am sure, will invoke the Supreme Court’s approval of the Philippines’s Mining Act, which Madrona knew to exist, and therefore, he has to recognize. But the fact that he filed the bill despite this knowledge tells us that in effect, Budoy made the move not exactly with the end in view of halting mining—that phrase again!—but to attract the miners to deal with him, in his own terms, in his own sweet time.

Having said this, let us rally all Romblomanons to re-elect Madrona for another term, so that he will have his cake and eat it, too.

In the meantime, let the financiers and the illegal miners empty the bowels of Magdiwang of its gold.


trini said...

Nong Nicon, correction: the Special Task Force on Anti-Illegal Mining has already met several times, discussing different approaches to the problem and trying to work out the best possible solutions. There is now also a Task Force Sagip Miners, headed by Project Gemini (DOLE, DTI, TESDA, and DOST) with DSWD, DA, PROVET, Provl Coop Devt Office and other agencies, to try to offer alternative livelihoods to the miners.

Anonymous said...

In Fact....No mining activities at the region around Mayor Dindo Rios. So this region is clear & saved ...for now.
What remains is the issue around Magdiwang.Illegal gold mining with the result ...contaminated by mercury. Seems that nobody have the right power to stop this activities, nobody is interested in the health of the people and also the nature.