Pangasinan guv faces graft over illegal black sandmining

Dennis Carcamo (The Philippine Star) - October 21, 2014 - 6:25pm

MANILA, Philippines - The Office of the Ombudsman has filed graft charges against Pangasinan governor Amado Espino and several provincial government officials for over P10 million in illegal black sand mining trade in the Lingayen Gulf area.

Aside from Espino, the Environmental Ombudsman filed two counts of graft against Provincial Administrator Rafael Baraan, Cynthia Camara and Lolita Bolayog of the Alexandra Mining and Oil Ventures, Inc.

Also indicted were Pangasinan Housing and Urban Development Coordinating officer Alvin Bigay, Alexandra Mining directors Cesar Detera, Edwin Alcazar, Denise Ann Sia Kho Po, Annlyn Detera, Glenn Subia and Emiliano Buenavista and Michael Ramirez, Gina Alcazar and Avery Pujol of Xypher Builders, Inc.

In the joint resolution, the Environmental Ombudsman said that when Espino assumed as governor in June 2007, he crafted the Site Development Plan that would turn the area into an eco-tourism complex, with the development of two 18-hole golf courses at par with international standards.

Immediately after, a negotiated contract was entered into between the local government and Alexandra Mining with soil remediation activities conducted in Barangay Sabangan as pilot area.

On June 29, 2011, a Small Scale Mining Permit (SSMP) was issued in favor of Alexandra Mining.  Barely three weeks later,  Baraan issued a Notice of Cancellation of the SSMP and ordered Alexandra Mining to vacate the area.

A memorandum of agreement (MOA) was entered into between Espino and Xypher Builders on Aug. 8, 2011 for the removal of metallic materials from the sand pile already vacated by Alexandra Mining.

Upon request for investigation made by residents of the affected barangays, the investigating team of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources of Region I issued a report on Oct. 18, 2011 recommending that the SSMP in favor of Alexandra Mining be cancelled as it was not issued with an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC).

It also said that the Alexandra Mining should be penalized for putting up a mineral processing plant sans ECC and that a Cease and Desist Order be issued stopping the mining firm from further extracting beach sand pending the resolution of the issue.

On Oct. 26, 2011, the provincial government issued a gratuitous permit, authorizing Xypher Buildings and the Provincial Housing and Development Coordinating Office to extract and utilize loose and unconsolidated  materials, and recover magnetite sand in Sabangan.

Espino also issued a Mineral Ore Export Permit in favor of Xypher.

The Environmental Ombudsman discovered that both the Alexandra Mining and th Xypher Builders are not registered contractors with the Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board.

It also found out that the ECC was issued later in favor of Baraan for the Lingayen Golf Course Project only on Jan. 2, 2013.

Alexandra Mining is not registered as a legitimate business establishment in Lingayen.

Aside from the criminal indictments, Baraan and Bigay were found administratively liable for grave misconduct and meted with the penalty of dismissal from the government service.

Meanwhile, the complaints against Lingayen mayor Ernesto Castañeda, Jr., Sabangan Barangay chairman Hector Fabiana, Estanza barangay chairman Mario Navarro, Malimpuec barangay chairman Delfin Velasco and provincial consultant Eric Acuña were dismissed for lack of merit.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales re-activated the Ombudsman Environmental Team in  May 2012 to handle cases filed with the office against government officials and individuals accused of violating environmental laws.

The team is headed by Deputy Ombudsman Gerard Mosquera as Environmental Ombudsman.

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