The Margaja Problem And Political Ping-Pong In Bicol


by jun asuncion


In keeping with our task to focus on unresolved issues concerning our town Bulan, I gathered here some news articles related with the margaja mining along the coasts of Bulan and in other Sorsogon towns. These are not the latest news, but still maybe some of you haven’t read these yet. The purpose is to help spread the news so that more and more people become aware of what’s going on around them.

We ask the people who know more to help update Bulan Observer with the newest developments in connection with these controversial mining operations. It is interesting to observe how the law takes into effect only when there are “misunderstandings” among our politicians. Suddenly somebody begins to work properly, accuses some people but nobody wants to accept responsibility, as each one of them is  playing safe and clean, accusations after accusations. Hence, it is a Ping-Pong match among our public servants which, although a garbage in itself, is worth watching for our environment is at stake here.


-DENR pushed to probe illegal black sand mining in Sorsogon
November 19, 2008 3:44 pm by pna

By Danny O. Calleja
SORSOGON CITY, Nov. 19 – The provincial legislative board of Sorsogon has asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to conduct investigations on the massive illegal extraction of magnetic sand from the coastlines of the province to determine who are responsible for it amidst nagging exchanges of accusations among local politicians.
“We are fed up by the exchanges of accusations over responsibilities involving this multi-million peso illegal activity among local political leaders so that the DENR should once and for all put an end to these by way of a thorough investigation to find out who really are to be made answerable,” Vice Governor Renato Laurinaria said on Wednesday.
Sorsogon second district Rep. Jose Solis has condemned the wide-scale magnetic sand quarrying along the coastlines of several barangays of at least four municipalities of the province and instigated a legislative inquiry by the House committee on environment and natural resources headed by Rep. Ignacio Arroyo.
Massive operations of magnetic sand quarrying have been reported in about 10 barangays covered by the municipalities of Sta. Magdalena, Bulan, Matnog and Magallanes, all coastal towns along the coastlines of Ticao Pass, San Bernardino Straits and the Pacific Ocean.
Provincial administrator Manuel Fortes said complaints against these illegal activities have reached his office and he tossed it up to the DENR being the proper forum for it.
“We in the provincial board are not in a position to resolve the issue but the DENR,” he said.
Laurinaria stressed that quarrying and extraction of coastal resources particularly within areas immediately within the coastlines are prohibited.
These areas belong to the prohibited zones for these activities so that it should not be given permit by the provincial government, he added. (PNA)

– Solon wants magnetic sand mining in Sorsogon stopped

November 17, 2008 6:44 pm by pna

SORSOGON CITY, Nov. 17 – Rep. Jose Solis (KAMPI-2nd District, Sorsogon) said here Monday he is initiating moves to stop the widespread quarrying and transporting of magnetic sand from several coastal villages of at least three towns of the province.
“These activities are destructive to the coastal resources and expose the lives and properties of thousands of beachfront dwellers to extreme danger during severe weather incidents,” Solis said.
Massive quarrying and extraction of magnetic sand that is being transported in huge volumes by giant cargo vessels to unknown destinations started in late 2006 under a permit granted by the provincial government of Sorsogon to a concessionaire said to be a business partner of a former provincial official.
These activities have been going on in several villages within the coastal towns of Bulan, Magallanes and Sta. Magdalena.
Solis said he has brought the matter to the House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources headed by Rep. Ignacio T. Arroyo for an inquiry to determine legislative measures towards putting an end to the destructive form of coastal resource usage.
The quarrying operations have already extracted a huge volume of magnetic sand from at least 10 kilometers of shoreline in the three municipalities and this is still going on even as several sectors have already expressed apprehension over its bad effects to the natural resources, Solis said.
The Magallanes town council headed by Vice Mayor Tito Ragrario has passed a resolution asking appropriate actions from the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) but there is no action yet as of late, Solis said.
Mayor Arsenio Arambulo said the municipal government has no authority over quarrying activities even as it operations are taking place within areas covered by the municipality. “It is a responsibility of the provincial government that is mandated through the PENRO to supervise and regulate it then collect fees from its operator,” the mayor said.
In Bulan, Mayor Helen Rose de Castro shared Arambulo’s position. “Quarrying activities are beyond the scope of the local government unit (LGU) and compliance by its operators to requirements necessary to obtain permits is a look-out of the provincial government,” she said.
De Castro said the operator of the magnetic sand quarrying activities within at least five barangays of her municipality was given permits by the provincial government in late 2006 and renewed last August.
Sta. Magdalena town Mayor Amadeo Gallanosa said his LGU is helpless against the quarrying operations within four coastal villages along the coastline of Pacific Ocean within the municipality.
The operations cover over five kilometers from where hundreds of thousands of tons of magnetic sand locally called “margaja” have already been extracted and transported outside of the locality, Gallanosa said.
Solis said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) should find means to stop such operations for the sake of environmental protection.
“By all means, these activities should be stopped given its destructive effects to the villagers affected and the natural resources,” he stressed.
Solis said he has requested the provincial office of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to initiate actions against these activities such as establishing checkpoints to prevent the transport of magnetic sand. (PNA)


Note: from PIO-Bulan to Jun Asuncion

Hereunder is a copy of the Position Paper of the Municipal Government of Bulan on the issues you raised regarding Margaja mining in Bulan.

November 8, 2008

Honorable Iggy T. Arroyo
The Committee Chairman

The Honorable Committee Members
Committee on Natural Resources
House of Representatives
Metro Manila


Section 138, Chapter 2, Book II of RA 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991 states, ” xxx . The permit to extract sand, gravel and other quarry resources shall be issued exclusively by the provincial governor, pursuant to the ordinance of the sangguniang panlalawigan…”

We respectfully submit to the Honorable Committee that the issue on the granting of approval and permits to prospectors of and operators on quarry resources is beyond the jurisdiction of the municipal government.

What the municipal government does, upon application by the quarry operation applicant, as part of the application procedure, is to issue a certificate of endorsement that it interposes no objection prior to the securing of the necessary permits and license from the concerned DENR agencies and the provincial government.

It is up to the concerned DENR agencies and the provincial government to judiciously decide whether the necessary requirements have been complied with. Given their technical expertise, which is beyond the scope of this local government, the former can very well determine and decide on the granting of permits on these resources.

As far as the Municipal Government is concerned, we were informed that there was a permittee of magnetite sand quarrying in our locality, first in late 2006, and then the permit was renewed in August of 2008.

On the matter of taxation, it will be up to the provincial government to remit the share to our municipal government and to the concerned barangays where the quarrying is taking place, for the utilization of our local resource.

As to the matter of operation, while it is within our territorial jurisdiction, we are of the presumption that the supervision on compliance to standards set forth by law rests with the agencies concerned who have issued the permit to such an activity.

Municipal Mayor

– Or visit Nonong Guyala’s own investigation  Bulan’s Blood Sand  in Sorsogonnews.



Filed under Bulan Developments, Environment, News, Views and Concern

5 responses to “The Margaja Problem And Political Ping-Pong In Bicol

  1. mo

    Nano daw tabi kay position paper lang an nahimo san munisipyo nyan ni Solis. Kun an pagmina san mga baybay doon sa Bulan nakaraot sa environment nyan wara man pakinabang an bungto ta, nakay diri tabi nagsampa na lang kaso sa korte o naghimo petisyon sa DENR, o maski kanino na makadanon talaga na mapundo ini na pagmina? An paghuna ko amigohonon san mga De Castro an dati na Gobernador san Sorsogon. Sa pag-imod ko kun habo talaga nira, kaya man nira sabihan an gobernador na diri aprobahan an aplikasyon sini na mining company. Nano tabi kay diri nag-object an munisipyo sadto na panahon na nag-aaplay pa lang permit ini na mining company?

    Kun base sa title san petisyon sa itaas san padaba nato na mayor, “illegal” daw tabi ini na pagmina, nano tabi kay inpabayaan tabi ini na magpadagos?
    Nano tabi kay inpagamit pa an mga heavy equipment san munisipyo?

    Nano daw tabi kay daghanon man kuno an nangingisog sini na pagmina pero wara man inhihimo? Nano tabi kay baga an puro man lang burudik budik an kaya san mga oragon na nagmamakulog man kuno sa Bulan? Nano daw tabi kun ipa-imod talaga niyo an orag man niyo?

    • Ramon Garra

      i share the view of Mo….’sensya na tabi kun nakisawsaw ako dine…in the town of Matnog, we are facing an uphill battle to stop the Iron Ore Project backed by our Governor Lee. To Mr. Asuncion, pls allow me to post this news link with a request from its writer:

      You may forward this link to the folks in Matnog and the office of Governor Lee for comment:

      • Thank you Mr. Ramon Garra for calling our attention again to this Margaha issue. I have written Mr. Joseph Lariosa already and he gave me the permission to publish his article here in Bulan Observer.
        Although we now have a president who has a correct understanding of Public Service, we still have local officials like governors and mayors (like in Matnog and in Bulan) who, after decades of fooling the people, still understand that what they are doing is Public Service when in truth it is Public Plunder. Hence, we still have in our midst Public Plunderers, politicians of the old school of corruption exemplified by our past presidents with a few exceptions.
        You know, political corruption is as magnetic as margaha. No wonder why our mayors have been stuck in their offices for decades by now.

        jun asuncion

  2. Thank you Mr. Asuncion for this response. What you have just written above is an excellent insight – brief and loaded!

    Just to balance what i had posted here earlier, Hereunder is a news article at Bicol Mail Online dated 17 Oct 2010 that i have came across today: ________________
    Gov to bishop: Let’s debate over mining
    By Bobby Q. Labalan
    SORSOGON CITY — Gov. Raul Lee of this province challenged Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes to a debate over the mining issue in Matnog town.

    But the bishop turned down the challenge saying it was not his job to debate but to spread the gospel.

    The governor hurled his challenge following the release of a pastoral letter by Bastes denouncing the mining operation at Barangay Balocawe which started about two months ago.

    Media Solutions was given by the bishop an exclusive copy of the pastoral letter which was to be read during masses last Sunday, October 3.

    The church leader said the mining operation being handled by Antones Enterprises would cause destruction of the environment, damage the livelihood of the people, contaminate water sources and endanger the populace.

    He stressed that mining is a destructive activity which should not be tolerated anywhere as its ill-effects far outweighs the gains that it generates.

    Bastes also pointed out that while the permit was for a small-scale mining operation and yet the company uses heavy equipment which are not allowed under the small-scale mining law.

    Lee, in an interview with Media Solutions, however, belied all the allegations saying the bishop must show proof of his charges and not just make sweeping statements.

    The governor stressed that the law does not all together prohibits the use of heavy equipment in the small-scale mining but sets a one-is-to-one ratio for human labor and equipment.

    He also junked Bastes’ charge that the operation destroys the environment and contaminates water sources in the area saying the Mines and Geosciences Bureau as well as the Environment Management Board have already passed upon its safety and compliance to environmental regulations.

    Lee lambasted Bastes for parroting the statements made by other individuals opposed to mining, including the parish priest of Matnog, Fr. Alexander Jerus, which he dismissed as baseless.

    The governor described as pure lies the contents of the pastoral letter which, according to him, were based on imagination.

    He urged the bishop to desist from publishing the letter during the masses as it would be tantamount to spreading lies and half-truths.

    He said he pities the priests who would be obliged to read the letter even though they were not aware of the real situation.

    Lee later said he was willing to have a one-on-one talk with the bishop so he could enlighten the prelate about the real situation.

    Earlier, the governor answered the letter-complaint of Jerus which raised the same concerns stated in the pastoral letter.

    The governor said he is ready to immediately cancel the permit issued to the operator the moment the oppositionist are able to substantiate their charges.

    “It would be an injustice to the investors if I just cancel the permit just because a handful of individuals were opposing the operation,” he said.

    Lee explained that cancelling the permit unilaterally would give a negative impression on the province as not being investor-friendly.

    He also noted that those who opposed the mining operations were given a chance thrice to air their sentiments but did not show up during the hearings conducted by the municipal council of Matnog and by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

    The governor urged the critics to be rational in their arguments so as not to mislead the public about the situation.

  3. Here’s an interesting report about illegal mining in Nueva Vizcaya which speaks of “certain local officials reportedly the ones even abetting it.”
    Now that the national “Witch Hunting” continues starting with the impeachment trial against Merci Gutierrez and just recently with the plunder complaint against Gloria Arroy et al (fertilizer scams, misuse of OWWA funds…), we also hope that this shall continue on the
    local, regional levels throughout the Philippines for as the public “knows” many local officials are involved in illegal mining, malversation of public funds, threatening or even liquidating political critics.
    In Bulan, I’m just wondering what happened to the then critical voices like Imbing Asuncion, Nonong Guyala, Roy Gersalia, etc. They seem to have been silenced in “local” ways you and I can only guess./ jun asun

    Illegal mining still rampant in landslide-prone Nueva Vizcaya areas
    By Charlie Lagasca (The Philippine Star) Updated April 27

    Illegal mining thrives in the mountainous village of Alimit in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya.

    BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines – Illegal small-scale mining goes on unabated in three landslide-prone villages in the province with certain local officials reportedly the ones even abetting it.

    The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said some 6,000 illegal small-scale miners have been extracting gold ore and other minerals such as copper and molybdenum in Barangays Didipio and Alimit in Kasibu town and Barangay Runruno in Quezon town.

    Didipio is the base of the national government-backed gold-copper project of Australian firm OceanaGold Philippines Inc.

    The project is the country’s first potential commercial mining venture under the 1995 Mining Act.

    Runruno hosts the multibillion-peso gold-molybdenum project being undertaken by the national government through FCF Minerals, a local subsidiary of London-based Metals Exploration.

    Runruno has also been identified as prone to landslides and flash floods but illegal miners, among them from the nearby provinces of Ifugao and Benguet, continue to proliferate in the area, transforming the once-peaceful village into a gold-rush site.

    The illegal miners, some of them reportedly maintaining unlicensed firearms, have been utilizing heavy equipment and banned explosives to construct tunnels as well as deadly chemicals to extract gold from the ore.

    “Instead of opposing these (national government-sanctioned) projects, anti-mining groups should help curb the rampant illegal extraction of minerals in these areas, which is the real cause of floods and landslides,” said MGB engineer Geoffrey Prado.

    Unlike small-scale mining, the MGB said government-sanctioned large-scale mining has safety nets to ensure that it would not cause flooding and landslides.

    Although there was no official confirmation, reports of deaths due to cave-ins and premature explosions as well as the use of deadly chemicals from small-scale mining operations have been taking place in the these villages.

    Last year, the provincial police reported that at least 10 miners were buried alive in a 150-foot tunnel in Didipio’s adjacent Alimit village.

    The MGB blamed small-scale miners for contaminating rivers in Runruno and Didipio with mercury and cyanide.

    This was affirmed by the Nueva Vizcaya State University, which conducted a study on the rivers’ conditions amid reports of their being already biologically dead.

    “The rising level of mercury content in the rivers is caused by the traditional small-scale mining using (these) toxic chemicals,” the MGB said.

    The provincial government has called for the dismantling of small-scale mining operations in the landslide-prone areas but to no avail.

    Reports said certain businessmen and local officials were even the ones financing or abetting small-scale mining there.

    “We have to stop them now or else we will suffer the same fate as in Mt. Diwalwal,” said Gov. Luisa Cuaresma, referring to the gold-rush area in Compostela Valley where miners have died due to unsafe mining practices.

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