70 landslide occurrences, land cracks endangers Mt. Magdiwata in Agusan

by Ben Serrano

     April 24, 2011


            SAN FRANCISCO, Agusan del Sur (PNA) - With 48 landslide occurrences and 22 land cracks discovered due illegal mining, timber poaching and other destructive activities, concerned residents and local officials here fear Mt. Magdiwata will be another Mt. Guinsaugon tragedy in the making if no immediate measures will be implemented soon.


            Mt. Magdiwata together with all mountain ranges in Agusan Valley extended up to Compostela Valley in Compostela province were part of the red mountain ranges found to have rich gold ore deposits.


            Early dawn Good Friday while small-scale miners were still sleeping, landslide occurred in the mountainous area of Sitio Panganason, Barangay. Kingking, Pantukan, Compostela Valley Province causing three persons killed, eleven rescued while dozens still missing as of press time.


            The 1,658 hectares Mt. Magdiwata watershed forest reserved area is the only source of potable water supply to some 100,000 residents of this town, the biggest municipality of the biggest province of entire Caraga Region, Agusan del Sur.


            According to DENR, Mt. Magdiwata is also sanctuary of the remaining flora and fauna and other wildlife animal and bird species that is becoming endangered due unabated timber poaching, hunting, quarrying and illegal mining and exploration activities.


            In October 25, 1993, the 1, 659 hectares Mt. Magdiwata whose areas stretched up to the Municipality of Rosario but majority of said areas belonged to the town of San Francisco was declared watershed forest reserved area under Presidential Proclamation No. 282.


            In the April 7, 2011 complaint letter to San Francisco, Agusan del Sur Mayor Jenny D. Asis, San Francisco Water District (SFWD) General Manager Elmer T. Luzon informed the Mayor that mining firm East Coast Mineral Resources allegedly conducted illegal mining activity anew within watershed area particularly in Barangay Mati.


          Barangay Captains and other village officials in Barangays Alegria and Karaos all in San Francisco town which is located near the foot of Mt. Magdiwata also in their letter to Mayor De Asis and the town council’s committee of environment and natural resources claimed the unabated illegal mining, timber poaching and other destructive activities within watershed area have caused perennial problems to them as village officials.


            Karaos Barangay Chairman Reynalito Homeres in his letters complaint said his concerned constituents challenged both San Francisco Mayor Jenny De Asis and Municipal Councilor Lerizza De Leon who is chairperson of the town committee to do something about landslide occurrences in their area.


            In one of the council’s session tackling Mt. Magdiwata problems, Barangay Captain Solomon Rufela of Barangay Alegria has told the committee on environment, he is surrendering the fate of his barangay to the alleged “bullheadedness” of small-scale miners operating within his barangay but upland Mt. Magdiwata to municipal officials saying “they are armed and dangerous”.


            Both Barangay Captains admitted they had difficulty in telling small-scale miners to stop “because some of them are also begging to allow them in their small-scale mining livelihood because of already too much poverty situation that already caused hunger to families of small scale miners trying to try their luck”


            During joint MENRO, Provincial Small-Scale Mining Regulatory Board, MGB and DENR and the Municipal officials’ headed by Municipal Administrator Evangeline Tan and Municipal Councilor Lerizza De Leon emergency meeting last Wednesday April 20 held at San Francisco Municipal Hall, the entire body agreed to conduct on-site inspection and investigation next week.


            Mr. Pete Ong. Liason Officer of East Coast Mineral Resources Corporation who is holder of an approved small-scale mining permit was present in the April 20 emergency meeting.


            Ong insisted the small-scale mining firm has not violated any laws and has not encroached to the watershed area as per April 7, 2011 letter complaint of the San Francisco Water District.


            Ong also agreed for the conduct of the Joint Government agencies’ on-site investigation and inspection. 

             On the other hand, Ong admitted that being a mere liason officer of the mining firm he cannot give immediate decision right away because he is still to consult, seek advise of his bosses mostly foreign investors on. important policy decision of the company.


Records from the Environmental Management Bureau regional office furnished to the water district showed East Coast Mineral Resources Corporation was already penalized of P50,000 for violating their ECC or Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) due conduct of illegal mining operations in Manangahon, Barangay Mati, San Francisco, Agusan del Sur which is within the declared protected watershed area.


            Under watershed proclamation, no individual or group are allowed to cut trees, dig grounds, excavate, hunt, disturbance of ecology and other illegal activities within Mt. Magdiwata as it will endanger grounds water water wells and water reservoir which are all source of potable water supply to some 100,000 residents in the Municipality of San Francisco and its 14 urban and rural barangays which drink water from said watershed area. (PNA/Ben Serrano)

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