Recurring landslides due to illegal miners
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - November 9, 2018 - 12:00am

There’s a common thread in the recent fatal landslides in Benguet and Mountain Province. It’s the same thread in ruinous recurring mudslides in Marikina, Pangasinan, Nueva Vizcaya, Bulacan, Rizal, Quezon, Palawan, Camarines, Samar, Surigao, Compostela Valley, and Davao. All were caused by illegal small-scale mining. Hillsides are quarried for gravel, and rivers panned for gold. With no care for safety or conservation, boulders are loosened, tunnels dug, and trees slashed and burnt. Naturally the earth topples onto homes below, especially during downpours. Government must acknowledge that ugly truth. That’s the only way to avert any more disasters. Rescue costs alone can be draining.

Large-scale mines are the usual suspects. Yet their extractions and explorations comprise only 28,800 hectares nationwide. That’s just 0.096 percent of the Philippines’ total 33 million-hectare land area, according to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.  Some breach safety and environment laws, industry leaders admit. But they’re easy to spot, penalize, and ostracize.

Small mines are in most provinces and congressional districts. Nearly all are illegal. As was exposed in Zambales six years ago, local officials abet them. The People’s Small-Scale Mining Act requires their licensing only within a declared “Minahang Bayan.” But the governor, congressman, or mayor’s political wards are let loose outside the limits. The result is hunger and disease, as forests, streams, and mangrove patches – poor folks’ food-security sources – are wiped out.

Scores of small miners converge in sites by word of mouth. There are no official records, but they are estimated to number hundreds of thousands. Local officials have no political will to drive them out of illegal mines. In Itogon, Benguet, where 67 gold diggers were buried alive in typhoon-induced rockslide, the mayor’s wife was reported as their financier-buyer. Small miners can be likened to the hungry garbage-dump scavengers employed by moneyed junkmen. Or, the “muro-ami” (reef knocking) fisher-divers of fleet owners. When small miners depart a site at all, they leave behind a wasteland.

There is no way to impose on small miners extraction and income taxes. Much more, to enforce rules under the Mining Act of 1995. Large-scale mines must allocate 1.5 percent of operating costs for the host community’s livelihood, education, infrastructures, and other projects under a Social Development Management Program. As well, one percent of gross revenues as Indigenous People’s Royalty, for cultural preservation. Also, 3.5 percent of direct milling and mining costs for Environment Protection and Enhancement Programs. And, full reforestation before end of operations, under a Final Mine Rehabilitation and Enhancement Program.

Illegal mining of any scale and scope should be stopped.

*      *      *

TALKBACK. On “Still no details on huge MRT-3 loan, Dalian trains” (Gotcha, 7 Nov. 2018)

Engr. T. Rivera, Singapore: “There is a P10.5-billion difference between the old rehab price of P7.5 billion and the jacked-up P18 billion. Please tell DOTr that, with that P10.5 billion, it can procure 72 new LRVs (light rail vehicles) instead of overhauling 18-year-old ones. DOTr got the 48 units from China for only P3.8 billion. Even if the price for 48 LRVs has risen to P5 billion, DOTr can order double, 96, for P10 billion.”

RNL, reporter: “The DOTr statement on the rehab loan last Wed. mentioned only the 72 (original) LRVs to be maintained day-to-day by Sumitomo. Nothing about maintenance of the 48 Dalian LRVs. Yet some of those trains are already being used. Could it be all for show, as the Chinese president is coming to town?”

S. Castañeda, regular train rider: “Please do not tire of exposing the shenanigans at MRT-3. Why is it so difficult for DOTr to state how much of the P18-billion loan is for tracks, for overhead catenary, for overhaul -- and for kickbacks?”

On election campaign T-shirts proclaiming new politics

Oswaldo Ronquillo: “I hope no aspiring ‘trapo’ (traditional politico) will emblazon his T-shirt with: KANDIDATO AKO, HINDI PA AKO NAGNANAKAW!”

On “Filipino ships uninsured for wrecks, spills, delays” (Gotcha, 5 Nov. 2018)

Gregory L., ship insurer: “P&I (property and indemnity) coverage for Filipino vessels are denied due to their non-compliance with safety and maintenance standards. They fail to pass inspection and so have no insurance. Brokers and MARINA know that, but nothing has been done to make ship owners comply. Passenger vessels are not covered because of the practice of overloading. Even with P&I cover, a vessel that figures in an incident and is found to be in violation of the insurance provisions will be denied their claims. P&I Clubs have independent surveyors, dispatched upon report of an incident. Most of the time, owners do not cooperate with the surveyors.”

RV Vicerra: “The problem is that MARINA does not provide insurance information on shipping to Insurance Commission. Of course, I.C.’s jurisdiction covers only the insurance companies -- not ships. Still, MARINA should report on insurance coverage of ships.”

Ron Brewer, New Jersey: “You are so spot-on with this report. Always a pleasure to read your commonsense words.”

*      *      *

Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ, (882-AM).

Gotcha archives on Facebook:, or The STAR website

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?
Login is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with