Villafuerte: Real issue in Caramoan spree is illegal mining
I share Kristine Lizardo’s disgust over the deaths of four panners in Caramoan, which are but the latest in a spate of crimes resulting from the unabated illegal mining in the area (Letters, 8/13/14).
Barangay Gata chair Mercy Sueno, Rep. William Fuentebella and former speaker Arnulfo Fuentebella continue to use this incident to muddle the real issue—unbridled mining in Caramoan in gross violation of laws, specifically: President Aquino’s Executive Order No. 79, declaring tourism zones off limits to mining; and Camarines Sur’s Sanggunian Panlalawigan Ordinance No. 17 s. 2014 declaring Caramoan a “quarrying and mining free zone.” Thus, Sueno’s claim that her constituents have long engaged in mining is an admission of her failure to enforce laws that ban mining in tourism zones.
Lizardo noted Rep. Fuentebella’s “anger” over the killings. I suspect his sincerity, considering their neglect of our provincemates, particularly the poor. All they can show for after over a century’s control of the Partido District are Camsur’s five poorest towns (according to the NSCB poverty map), among these Tigaon where Arnulf Bryant Fuentebella has been the mayor for a long time. William as head of the Partido Development Authority (PDA) failed miserably to uplift the district and only burdened the national government with over P1 billion in unpaid debts and over P100 million in losses, as per the Commission on Audit findings for the 2008-2009 period alone. Besides, the Fuentebellas have been remiss in stopping illegal mining in their district, notwithstanding the fact that former speaker Fuentebella authored the law declaring six islands in Caramoan a national tourism zone.
What emboldened illegal miners was the irregular memorandum of agreement between the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the Fuentebella-controlled PDA three years ago. The agreement empowered PDA to oversee mining activities in the entire district. Lizardo should complain about this because it allows illegal mining in Caramoan’s tourism zones.
Despite the Fuentebellas’ neglect, the Partido District’s economy grew over the past decade largely on the back of Caramoan’s rise as a global tourism site through the efforts of my father when he was governor to turn Caramoan and the CamSur Watersports Complex into two of the Philippines’ best tourist spots.
As for the withdrawal of my deputation by the National Police Commission (Napolcom), I have already filed a motion for reconsideration on the ground that it was highly irregular and violated my right to due process.
While waiting for the judicial process to take its due course, let me point out that the accusers are the very same persons the suspects have been running after for their involvement in illegal mining.
Lizardo should wonder why I was subjected to underhanded action at the Napolcom when I was the one who reported to the police the illegal mining activities by the chair as well as by groups identified with the Fuentebellas; while the local police, who failed to enforce the law, went unpunished and colluded with the Napolcom regional office to have my deputation withdrawn.
—MIGUEL LUIS R. VILLAFUERTE,
governor, Province of Camarines Sur
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