By ACE ALEGRE
BAGUIO CITY — Cagayanos asked President Rodrigo Duterte’s help in stopping dredging activities at the mouth of Cagayan River they said is “disguised” magnetite mining.
The Cagayan Province Provincial Board approved last August 7 a resolution asking the president 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 (DPWH) confirmed that it did not issue any dredging permit to the private firm involved in the dredging.
Pacific Offshore Exploration Inc. (POEI), a firm owned by a former Isabela town mayor, has been dredging the country’s biggest river system for months.
The company reportedly ships the dredged materials to a reclamation project in Hong Kong and may earn about $50 million monthly if it sells the sand at current local prices, according to the resolution.
A cubic meter of sand in Cagayan is being sold at P160 to P180.
The exportation of black sand to Hong Kong was met with protests from locals.
Provincial Board member and resolution author Mila Lauigan said the deal with the dredgers has to be investigated.
“That is why we are appealing to the President to immediately suspend the dredging operations and inquire whether the company has complied with all the requirements before it proceeds,” Lauigan said.
According to the provincial legislator, “the contractor is only extracting black sand and leaves waste (non-mineral sand) material back into the river.”
It is reason why environmentalists and locals are raising heaven and hell [while] Gov. Manuel Mamba had been defending POEI’s operations amidst the environmental mess it has been causing, she said.
Mamba’s camp had been defending the dredging operation they said is meant to prepare for the reopening the Port of Aparri.
Mamba said the port’s reopening would improve economic and trade relations between Cagayan province and China as well as neighboring Asian countries.
Mamba, who entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Pacific Offshore Exploration Inc. (POEI) under the authority of a resolution passed by the Cagayan Provincial Board last January, insists there is only dredging activities in the area and not magnetite (black sand) mining.
The provincial board has yet to be shown a copy of the memorandum of agreement between Mamba and POEI.
Mamba’s camp said there is no economic value to the exportation and the dredging activities help clear the river of heavy silt for free.
Engr. Mario Ancheta of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Mines and Geosciences Bureau agreed with the governor 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,” Ancheta said.
The Cagayan Export Zone Authority (CEZA), meanwhile, had been silent on the controversial dredging and “exporting” of the dredged sand to HK.
Immigration officials and the maritime police in Cagayan are also silent on the presence of foreign workers on the sand barges regularly approaching the shores of Aparri town. # (With additional reports from Raymund B. Villanueva) nordis.net / Photo from Gising Cagayan Facebook Page