LINGAYEN, Pangasinan July 13 – Provincial Legal Officer Geraldine Baniqued recently questioned the “inconsistent” stand of the regional office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) which had recently ordered the confiscation of some 9,588 cubic meters of magnetite sand after previously affirming that “…there was no mining activity in the golf course area.”
The said golf course area, located within the Lingayen barangays, Sabangan, Estanza and Malinpuec, is part of the Eco-Tourism complex project being pursued by the provincial government in partnership with foreign investors.
MGB Regional Director Carlos Tayag had previously clarified in an interview aired by 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.”
In the same interview, Tayag was quoted as saying, “pag na separate na ‘yun, the provincial government can make use of it when the proper permits are obtained.”
In her letter to Tayag, Baniqued said “the 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 (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) that you represent.”
Atty. Baniqued reminded the MGB official that the PMRB which he chairs, “favorably and unanimously endorsed the application for a government gratuitous permit of the Pangasinan Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Office and its service contractor, Xypher Builders, through the issuance of a resolution.”
Baniqued also reminded Tayag that it was on the basis of the PMRB’s recommendation that the gratuitous permit had been granted by the provincial government, recalling that then Provincial Administrator Rafael Baraan had requested Tayag’s office for an inventory of the recovered magnetite materials pursuant to the requirements of the gratuitous permit.
Engr. Roel Collado of the MGB had subsequently made an inventory of the mineral materials on Nov. 24. 2011, enabling Xypher Builders to apply for mineral ore export permit or MOEP which MGB had endorsed for approval.
“The existence of the permits which was recommended by your office, in effect negates 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.
Gov. Amado T. Espino, Jr., in recent interview with media, said that “not a single grain of black sand went out of the area,” clarifying, however, that the provincial government will ‘respect and abide with the MGB order to confiscate the extracted mineral materials.’
Gov. Espino, Jr. again reminded the media that even the original complainants against the project “had pointed out that the stockpile of magnetite sand remains intact,” a statement further affirmed by MGB Mining Engr. Ruben Soriano who reported that based on his group’s findings, “…there was no sightings of any excavation in the area, which proves that magnetized sand mining does not exist.”
Meanwhile, barangay leaders and residents of the three affected Lingayen barangays bewailed the long delay being suffered by the envisioned Pangasinan Eco-Tourism project, saying, “Ang mga tao po sa Barangay Sabangan, Estanza, at Malimpuec ay excited na sa pagsisimula ng eco-tourism. Ito po ay malaking development sa lalawigan ng Pangasinan lalo na sa bayan ng Lingayen,” barangay Sabangan council member Vicente Oliquino, one of the original oppositors of the project, stressed.