BOTOLAN QUARRYING: Black sand mining threatens shoreline

IBA, ZAMBALES—Residents of a coastal village in Botolan town are complaining that black sand (magnetite) mining operations there have been eating away the shoreline of their community, threatening to destroy their houses.

“We have been complaining for a long time. Some of my neighbors are afraid already. We have approached [Department of Environment and Natural Resources] officials here many times, but [the operations are] still ongoing,” said Teresita Odtujan, 56, a resident of Barangay Binoclutan.

She said the mining operations had reduced Binoclutan’s shoreline, noting that waves were crashing nearer their homes.

Odtujan also said her family had to deal with harassment from operators “because they are angry that we’re trying to stop this.”

“Most villagers here are employed by the [Korean buyer of the black sand], and the operator is [a] village councilor here,” she said.

Permit for 2 years Benjamin Manabat, chief of the environment and natural resources office in Zambales, said his office issued a permit to Fernando Oñate, a village councilor in Binoclutan, on March 8 to mine black sand in the area for two years.

The current value of a metric ton of high-grade magnetite is $80 (P3,470), but workers in Binoclutan are paid only a small fraction of their haul, the residents said.

But Manabat said he asked Oñate to stop operations after he received complaints from villagers.

“I asked the proponent and the buyer to stop their operations. No one is complaining [lately], so I thought that they had stopped,” Manabat said.

He showed the Inquirer a letter he wrote to Lee Kook In, the Korean buyer of the black sand, where he cited Batas Pambansa Bilang 265, which prohibits mining operations along shorelines.

Manabat, in the letter, also ordered Lee to stop buying black sand from Oñate.

“Likewise, stop … operation as it could [endanger] the community and may [damage] the environment,” he said.

Mining near the coastline The Inquirer visited Binoclutan on Thursday, and saw several workers extracting and bagging black sand near the coastline.

Dump trucks were in the village, waiting to haul these. Manabat said he couldn’t monitor the area because “I’m the only man in this office [and] I can’t send women there.”

But he promised to check the operations.

He said the permits to quarry Binoclutan of black sand could not have been issued without the endorsement of village, town and provincial officials.

Asked how his office could have issued a permit in an area where mining activities are prohibited under BP 265, Manabat said: “The surveyor made a mistake.

It was a miscalculation; it’s not supposed to be done near the shoreline.” Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. said he based his approval of the permit on the actions of local officials.

“If there’s a permit there, I based my approval on the clearance and endorsement of [local officials]. If it’s destructive, it should be stopped,” he said.

Ebdane said Manabat’s explanation that the surveyor made a mistake was “not an excuse.” “If there’s a violation, we recall the permit. This should have been done a long time ago,” he said. –By Inquirer Central Luzon, Robert Gonzaga

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