Illegal mining in Nocot town ordered close

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DAVAO CITY — The provincial government of North Cotabato and Mines and Geosciences Bureau of Region 12 on Friday ordered the closure of illegal mining activity in Barangay Don Panaca in Magpet town.

North Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco and MGB 12 (Soccsksargen) Director Felizardo Gacad Jr. on Friday afternoon signed and implemented a cease and desist order (CDO).

The village of Don Panaca sits at the foothills of Mt. Apo, and is also part of the protected area of the national park.

This developed as Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu on Sunday called for intensified monitoring of tree-cutting activities in the same area where authorities recently discovered a small-scale illegal mining operation in Magpet.

“We cannot allow people to further destroy our forests especially when we know that flooding is among its direct consequences,” Cimatu said in a press release. “Many Filipinos have suffered enough from the devastation of massive flooding because of forest denudation.”

Cimatu said the local government of Magpet should always be on the lookout for any illegal tree-cutting activity in its area of jurisdiction and coordinate such activity with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Region 12 (Soccsksargen).

According to DENR-12 regional executive director Felix Alicer, the tree-cutting activity was discovered during a Dec. 7 raid conducted in Barangay Don Panaca by operatives of the DENR, Mines and Geosciences Bureau, the local government of Cotabato, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The joint operation team then discovered an illegal small-scale mining operation in the area located some 10 kilometers away from the Mt. Apo Natural Park.

The mining site has not been declared a “minahang-bayan” or a common area where small-scale miners are allowed to operate, prompting Cimatu to order its immediate closure.

Unconfirmed reports also revealed regarding massive illegal cutting of trees in said village to pave the way to the mining operations.

Both officials signed the joint order following the discovery of illegal mining activity inside the Mt. Apo protected area last week.

Catamco said an investigation being carried out by the provincial government, the MGB-12, and the local environment office of Magpet seeks to find answers on the mining tunnel discovered in Don Panaca.

“Caring for our environment is everyone’s business. We all know that this is a shared responsibility,” she said.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu earlier directed the MGB-12 to seize “tools and equipment, the mined mineral, and equipment at the mining site” but no operator or miner was found when environment officials raided the area last December 8.

At least 28 sacks of ore were recovered.

The MGB and provincial officials noted that no license has been issued allowing the “Minahang-Bayan” or Small-Scale Mining Contract anywhere in Magpet.-Newsline.ph

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