Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has expressed strong support to calls to stop the illegal black sand mining operation along Cagayan River due to its negative exploitation of the environment and the loss of livelihood among thousands of residents.
“The reported rampant and indiscriminate extraction of black sand along Cagayan River, the country’s longest river, warrants our serious attention due to its negative impact to our environment and the livelihood of thousands of people near the area,” she said.
“Dahil sa walang humpay at ilegal na black sand mining, nababawasan ang kabuhayan ng ating mga mangingisda at katutubo, at nalalagay sa panganib ang kanilang buhay at ari-arian. Ito ay lantarang pagnanakaw ng ating lupa,” she added.
Reports are rife about the rampant illegal mining of black sand in several towns in Cagayan province, with residents spotting some dredging ships bearing Chinese markings near the Cagayan River since July.
Several provincial board members, led by Mila Catabay-Lauigan, have initiated an investigation into the dredging operation being carried out by a contractor without the necessary environmental compliance certificate and other permits.
According to the board resolution, the contractor returns the non-mineral sand back into the river while bringing the dredged materials abroad. The said contractor allegedly earns about P2.6 billion a month from the project.
It may be recalled that when she was justice secretary, De Lima created a task force led by the National Bureau of Investigation to lead a crackdown against several illegal black sand mining operators in Cagayan and Ilocos Sur.
The move led to the filing of charges against several individuals, including Chinese nationals found illegally operating a processing plant for black sand, popularly used as stabilizer in concrete and steel products and in jewelry and cosmetics manufacturing.
Dismayed over the return of black sand mining in Cagayan and other part of the country, De Lima also underscored the need for the immediate passage of a law that prohibits such activity to put an end to it once and for all.
“Huwag nating payagan na muling namamayagpag ang pagnanakaw na ating buhangin sa ating mga kamay. Muli kong itutulak ang aking panukalang batas upang ipagbawal ang black sand mining at matigil ito sa lalong madaling panahon,” she said.
In the 17th Congress, the lady Senator from Bicol filed Senate Bill No. 960 banning the extradition of black sand due to the harmful effects on people living near mining sites where they suffer illnesses, their houses destroyed, and their livelihood compromised.
In filing the measure, she noted how some unscrupulous mining operators, mostly foreign nationals, are taking advantage of the absence of a law on black sand mining, in connivance with local government officials despite opposition from the affected residents.
Under her proposed measure, mining firms will be required to dispose dredge materials in government-controlled landfills to prevent black sand from being passed off as waste.
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau will also have to check on the presence of black sand before dredging permits can be issued to miners. Any person or firm found guilty of black sand mining may be jailed for six to 12 years and fined from P1 to 10 million, according to the bill.