Lacson Seeks Probe of Destructive, Treacherous Excavations in Zambales

Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson is seeking a Senate inquiry into reported destructive mining operations and “treacherous” excavations in Zambales province, including the alleged smuggling of soil and rocks to build Chinese islands in the West Philippine Sea.

Lacson filed Senate Resolution No. 92 to investigate in aid of legislation the alleged exploitative activities that harm the environment and pose serious threats to national security to the prejudice of Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“(The investigation has) the end in view of adopting remedial measures to strengthen our environmental protection and conservation laws and address the possible breach of our national security,” he said.

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[Read: Senate Resolution 92, Mining Operations and Excavations in Zambales]

He cited reports of mining activities practically flattening the mountains and damaging a large area of forested highlands in Santa Cruz town.

Worse, he said some reports had quoted Zambales Governor Amor Deloso as saying soil and rocks taken from these areas were “shipped, dumped and used to reclaim almost 3,500 hectares of the disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea, which caused massive, unspeakable damage to the marine environment therein.”

Also, he said an online article circulating on social media as early as November 2015 quoted a source from the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency as saying the mining firms were smuggling soil and rocks “to build a chain of Chinese islands in the West Philippine Sea.” The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has formed a task force to look into the reported reclamation work.

“There is a need to account for the personalities behind (these) highly anomalous, illegal and treacherous acts that tend not only to destroy our environment, but also make a mockery of our laws to the prejudice of the Filipino people and constitute a possible breach of our national security,” Lacson said.

He added an assessment should also be undertake across the affected areas to determine the extent of the damage, and appropriate actions to rehabilitate them – as well as address the allegations of possible breach of national security.

On the other hand, Lacson noted, the mining activities had caused unprecedented damage in Zambales, with mud from the mountain where large-scale mining occurred “cascaded into the lowlands and left a trail of destruction” in the wake of Typhoon Lando in October 2015.

Before these, he said residents of Santa Cruz had reported the nickel ore mining had caused adverse effects and posed continuing threats to the environment and the nearby communities.

He also noted that in July 2014, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Mines and Geosciences Bureau suspended four firms for practicing unsystematic strip mining methods in their nickel mining operations, causing siltation in water and generating dust.

In 2011, he said former Zambales Governor Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. issued small-scale mining permits to a mining firm that allowed the illegal hauling of minerals from the province. In 2015, the Ombudsman found probable cause to indict Ebdane for graft, usurpation of government functions and mineral theft.