Thursday, November 22, 2012

Gov. Espino is No Mascot for Environment

            Press Release

 Anti-mining advocates in Pangasinan today slammed the organizers of Miss Earth International for picking Gov. Amado Espino as their partner in promoting awareness on environmental issues and problems, saying the governor’s projects have wrought destruction in the province’s eco-system.
            “Sorry, Miss Earth, our governor is not the right mascot for environmental concerns,” said Vicente Oliquino, president of Aro Mo Ako Sambayanan (AROMAS).
            “Annointing Gov. Espino, the black sand king of Pangasinan, as a champion for environmental issues is like giving instructions to the wolf to watch over and take care of the chickens,” Oliquino said.
            He noted that Pangasinan residents, particularly those living in Lingayen, were aghast to learn that the local promoters of Miss Earth International have agreed to hold activities in the province in partnership with the governor and the provincial government.
            The activities, to be held from November 17-19, involve 30 Miss Earth beauties who are expected to tour Pangasinan to promote their environmental advocacies.
            “I am sorry that the local promoters of Miss Earth had been misled. Their partner in the province has no credibility as far as the fight for environmental protection is concerned,” Oliquino said.
            Oliquino, a village official in Lingayen, has been leading the campaign of several barangay leaders and residents of Pangasinan to stop the mining of black sand in barangays Sabangan, Malimpuec and Estanza in Lingayen.
            Their group has asked the Ombudsan to suspend Espino from office pending investigation of a complaint filed against the governor and other provincial officials in connection with the illegal mining operations in Lingayen.
            The provincial government issued on June 29, 2011, a Small Scale Mining Permit to Alexandra Mining and Oil Venture. Inc., allowing the firm to “extract and remove 50,000 metric tons of Magnetite Sand Materials annually” from a 5.5-hectare coastal area situated in Barangay Sabangan, Municipality of Lingayen.
The permit was issued without authority from the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Pangasinan and without an Environment Compliance Certificate (ECC) from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
The DENR later ordered Alexandra to stop the mining activities, but the provincial government allowed another firm, Xypher Builders, to extract magnetite from the area supposedly for the construction of an 18-hole golf course.
On January 30, 2012, the DENR instructed Gov. Espino to stop black-sand mining activities in Barangay Sabangan due to the absence of an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC). Regional Director Joel Salvador of DENR-Region 1 also asked Espino to explain within 15 days “why no penalty should be imposed” on provincial officials who allowed the black-sand mining of Xypher Builders in Barangay Sabangan.
Up to this date, however, Xypher Builders continue their extraction activities in Barangays Sabangan, Malimpuec and Estanza despite the absence of an Environmental Clearance Certificate and the existence of a Cease and Desist Order from the DENR. Exportation and smuggling of black sands away from the shorelines of Pangasinan going to China are also being reported despite the DENR’s cease and desist order.
            The leaders of AROMAS have also appealed to the Ombudsman to act on the series of harassments against their ranks being initiated by the alleged hired goons and armed forces of the provincial government.
                       Aside from their filed plea to suspend Espino from post, AROMAS already filed administrative cases against their governor last January 13, 2012 before the Ombudsman for graft and corruption, abuse of authority, neglect of duty, and violation of the local government code.
                       AROMAS leaders and supporters had also announced their plan of holding a two-day protest caravan from Pangasinan going to Manila to troop the offices of the Ombudsman and the DENR on November 20 and 21 in time of the International Fish Day.
            Oliquino said Gov. Espino and the provincial government should also be held accountable for allowing the surge of quarrying and black sand mining activities in other parts of Pangasinan.
            In San Fabian, he said, the black sand mining operations were being conducting under the guise of dredging activities.
            Quarrying activities were also rampant in the towns of Bugallon and Alcala, he added. These activities reportedly resulted in the reduction of agricultural harvest and the destruction of irrigation systems in the area.
            Oliquino noted that a barangay kagawad in Alcala was even killed on the spot last year while conducting a round of the village to gather signatures for the petition against the quarrying activities.
            “Nararamdaman na namin dito sa Pangasinan ang epekto ng pagwasak sa kalikasan. Hindi namin papayagang magpatuloy ito dahil dito nakasalalay ang aming kabuhayan at kinabukasan ng aming mga anak,” he stressed.

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