Why not a total mining ban? | Inquirer Opinion
As I See It

Why not a total mining ban?

/ 08:54 PM June 14, 2011

THERE IS now a mad scramble among 27 aspirants for the position of Ombudsman after Merceditas Gutierrez resigned rather than be impeached. The acting ombudsman now is Orlando Casimiro, one of the 27 aspirants. The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) will screen the aspirants and submit a list of three in early July to President Aquino, who will have to appoint one of them within one month.

In the short time that he has been acting ombudsman, Casimiro has tried to show that he can do the job quickly, so different from the Merci era, when nothing seemed to move in the Office of the Ombudsman. Unlike his predecessor, Casimiro seemed to be more attuned with his responsibilities to the people.

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Now there is a chance for government to recover some P55 million worth of unexplained wealth from former military comptroller Lt. Gen. Jacinto Ligot and his family after Casimiro ordered forfeiture proceedings against Ligot. The forfeiture proceedings will allow the government to repossess the numerous bank deposits and investments which were allegedly part of the Ligots’ unexplained wealth.

This is in contrast with the plea bargaining agreement that the Office of the Ombudsman under Gutierrez entered into with former military comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia where only about P135 million of the P303 million that he allegedly amassed illegally would be returned to the people.

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Under this plea bargaining agreement, Garcia pleaded to the lesser offense of direct bribery and violation of the Anti-Money Laundering Law, instead of plunder.

Days before his assumption into office, Casimiro ordered the dismissal of his colleague, Deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzalez III, acceding to the decision of Malacañang. Gutierrez had refused to obey President Aquino’s order and even acquitted Gonzalez.

Also, the Office of the Ombudsman finally acted on the case against Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) Chair Prospero Pichay, an ally of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo.

Pichay was placed under a six-month preventive suspension for his alleged misuse of LWUA funds in the acquisition of a troubled thrift bank in 2008.

Casimiro said it is imperative to immediately suspend Pichay “as the need for precautionary measures against possible abuse of the prerogatives of the office may escalate under the circumstances.”

The suspension came after several LWUA officials filed the complaint against Pichay and other trustees. The LWUA officials also alleged that the trustees unlawfully authorized a payment of P4 million to increase the authorized capital stock of the thrift bank.

Casimiro added that the respondents violated BSP Circular 309 when they did not secure the approval of the Monetary Board on the sale or transfer of shares before disbursing P480 million of LWUA funds.

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Also recently, the Office of the Ombudsman filed criminal charges against the former governors of Nueva Ecija and Camarines Norte and other ranking provincial officials.

Casimiro said former Gov. Tomas Joson III, incumbent Bongabon Mayor Amelia Gamilla, and former Mayor Eduardo Basilio Joson were criminally charged for two counts of violation of Sec. 3 of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act or Republic Act 3019 for giving unwarranted benefits or preference to municipalities whose chief executives were allies of Joson.

Casimiro also ordered the filing of charges against former Gov. Jesus Typoco Jr., provincial health officer Arnulfo Salagoste, general services OIC Noel Reyes, GSO Buyer II Aida Pandeagua, and Angelina Cabrera, owner-representative of Cabrera’s Drugstore and Medical Supply in Daet, Camarines Norte, for violation of Sec. 3 of RA 3019, and for falsification of public documents.

The then officials allegedly gave unwarranted benefits to Cabrera’s Drugstore when the latter was made the supplier of the province of Camarines Norte in 2005 even before the opening of bids was made.

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Promote tourism, not mining. This was the message of environment advocate Gina Lopez, managing director of the ABS-CBN Foundation, to the people of Guiuan, Eastern Samar. With tourism, the environment and biodiversity of a place is preserved and even developed; with mining, the environment is destroyed,

Indeed, we should have a total mining ban. We have a total log ban, why not a total mining ban? Mining is more destructive of the environment than logging. Leave a logged-over area for several years and trees will grow again, but a mined-over area will remain the same for decades.

We saw the destruction of forests by logging when it was already too late. Now our mountains are bald and landslides bury villages below every time there is a downpour. Let us not wait to see the destruction that mining does to the environment. We have already seen that in Ormoc, Marinduque and other mining areas.

Let us not be hypnotized by dreams of wealth supposedly to be brought about by mining. Gold mining has been going on for decades in Benguet, but it has not benefited the Igorots, only the businessmen in Manila. Let us keep our minerals in the ground, the same way the United States is keeping its Alaskan oil underground. The longer we keep them there, the more valuable they become. Once the minerals have been extracted, we are left with nothing, but the miners run laughing all the way to their banks.

All the nations who developed their tourism have progressed. Not those who relied on mining. Down with mining!

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TAGS: Aquino, columns, featured columns, merceditas gutierrez, mining, mining ban, ombudsman, opinion, orlando casimiro
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