Province’s lawyer clarifies issue on black sand permit

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LINGAYEN, Pangasinan  – The regional office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) appeared to have been inconsistent in its statements following its order to confiscate some 9,588 cubic meters of magnetite sand extracted from the site of a proposed 18-hole golf course within the eco-tourism zone of the provincial government.

In a letter to MGB Regional Director Carlos Tayag, Provincial Legal Officer Geraldine Baniqued informed the DENR official that the “seemingly inconsistent statements made over the issue of black sand mining appears to undermine the integrity of PMRB (Provincial Mining Regulatory Board), as well as the national agency that you represent, considering that your good office previously made statements affirming the fact that there was no mining activity in the golf course area.”

Baniqued also reminded Tayag that he clarified in an interview aired over ABS-CBN north-central Luzon network that the extraction of magnetite sand was not a mining activity but only for the purpose of expelling the elements that adversely affect the growth of turf grass needed in the golf course project.

The provincial lawyer further reminded the MGB official that the PMRB which he chairs, “favorably and unanimously endorsed the application for a government gratuitous permit of Pangasinan Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Office and its service contractor, Xypher Builders thru the issuance of a resolution.”

Without PMRB’s recommendation, the gratuitous permit would not have been issued by the provincial government, Baniqued said in her letter to Tayag.

Baniqued said then Provincial Administrator Rafael Baraan requested Tayag’s office for inventory of the recovered magnetite materials pursuant to the requirements of the gratuitous permit.

On Nov. 24, 2011, the lawyer said, Engr. Roel Collado of the MGB regional office made an inventory of the mineral materials.

With the inventory, Xypher Builders applied for mineral ore export permit (MOEP) which MGB endorsed for approval.

“The existence of the permits which was recommended by your office, in effect negate your allegation that the magnetite sand were illegally-sourced, as the extraction of the same was by virtue of a permit issued by the government,” Baniqued said in her letter  to Tayag.

In an interview with the media, Gov. Amado T. Espino, Jr. had made it clear that the provincial government will respect and abide with the MGB order to confiscate the extracted mineral materials.

He said however that not a single grain of black sand went out of the area.

“Even the original complainants against the project pointed out that the stockpile of magnetie sand remains intact,” Governor Espino said.

By Dexter A. See

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