Joseph Lariosa Takes Up the Cudgels for “Save Matnog, Stop The Iron Project” Print
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Friday, 31 December 2010 15:14



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Carpetbaggers Back Off My Boyhood Town!


C HICAGO (jGLi) – When I was a young boy vacationing in the native town of my mother, Consolacion G. Garra, in Matnog, Sorsogon, Luzon’s gateway to Southern Philippines, I always wondered why its white beaches had sprinklings of black sands.


It turned out those black sands are called “margahas,” which I later came to know as magnetite sands.


With no money to buy toys, we used these margahas to entertain us.  We would put a trickle of these black sands on top of a small piece of grade school pad paper and put a magnet or magnetite stone (bato balani) below the paper and we would run the magnet in different directions.


Because the margahas is attracted to the magnets, these black sands would stand up on end, like soldiers, if we moved the magnet or bato balani below the paper. The margahas would follow the magnet like dutiful soldiers.


And it gave us a kick because it put matters under our control.


I had no idea that these margahas and bato balani abundant in Matnog and the whole of the Bicol region were iron oxide minerals that are often mined as an ore or iron. It is commonly used as abrasive in water jet cutting, as toner in electrophotography and as micronutrient in fertilizers, as  pigments in paint, etc.


These magnetic minerals attracted nationwide attention in November 2005 when two sacks of dead fishes were allegedly buried in Barangay Binosawan in Rapu-Rapu, an island town of Sorsogon’s neighboring province of Albay to the north.


For these margahas and bato balani to be of commercial use, they have to be mined. During their mining, they would give off toxic discharges, like cyanide, that emptied into Albay Gulf and into the Pacific Ocean that flowed south to neighboring towns of Prieto Diaz, Gubat, Barcelona, Bulusan and Bacon (now part of the capitol town of Sorsogon City), all in Sorsogon province.




T he cyanide poisoning caused massive fish kills in the area prompting President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to create the Presidential Rapu Rapu Fact Finding Commission Report, and a separate DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) Assessment of the Rapu Rapu Polymetallic Project, both in 2006.


In one of then-President Arroyo’s rare shining moments, she approved the Commission’s report to junk the “$45-million in capital investments from Lafayette, Philippines, Inc. (LPI) of Australia, as well as $10-million investments from LG Group of Korea” that were jointly mining in Rapu Rapu. Ms. Arroyo learned that LPI’s Country Manager Mr. Roderick Watt “inadvertently stated in his letter” to her that LPI’s PEZA (Philippine Economic Zone Authority) application did not need the Mayor’s (Rapu Rapu’s) concurrence.


More damaging, however, was the forgery of Rapu Rapu Sangguniang Bayan Secretary’s signature in the SB resolution that granted “ecozone” permit to LPI for tax-exemption.


As a PEZA registrant, LPI certified that it would not endanger public safety or public health or violate anti-pollution requirements by installing pollution-control devices.


As a result of the fish kills, the National Economic Development Authority recommended the LPI’s “tax-free status” revoked. While the DENR ordered the Bureau of Internal Revenue to investigate possible tax fraud as a mere two percent was paid in excise tax for the year 2005 for PhP 2,065,511.54, out of the $2.4-million ore exported.


But the most damning information issued by the Commission is the finding that the “DENR, its bureaus, i.e., MGB (Mines and Geo-Sciences Bureau) and EMB (Environmental Management Bureau), its regional offices, including its monitoring team, (are) to be so dysfunctional as to be unable to prevent the occurrence of the October (fish kills) incidents. They simply did not have the sufficient capability of monitoring mining operations in Rapu-Rapu. Worse, though, is that if they had the capability, then, they utterly lacked will.”




I wonder if my friend, Sorsogon Gov. Raul R. Lee, ever read these reports. He was quoted in the report as saying that in Sorsogon, the fish scare caused “unwarranted and untold sufferings” to fisher folk families, fish traders and the fish consuming public. Did the good governor ever sue the LPI for damages to assuage the “unwarranted and untold sufferings” of his constituents?


A registered mail sent me by Gov. Lee justifies the approval of a similar small-scale mining operation, like Rapu-Rapu’s, in a small barangay of Balocawe in Matnog consisting of 19,848 hectares.


The lucky mining permit holder is one Antonio Ocampo and/or Antonio Comerciase, Jr. of No. 3 Barangay Tomolin, Ligao, Albay. He was given a permit on “Sept. 23, 2009, to extract 25,000 metric tons of iron ore from Sept. 23, 2009, to Sept. 22, 2010, with an option to renew for the same length of period.”


Writer’s Note: Rapu-Rapu’s mining operation covers only 5,218 hectares and was able to extract 67,693 metric tons of gold ore mined in 2005 and exported $2.4-million worth of ore.


Governor Lee was prodded to send me a letter after I e-mailed DENR Secretary Ramon J. Paje that he should listen to the petition of “Save Matnog, Stop The Iron Project.” Secretary Paje, in turn, forwarded my e-mail to Regional Director Reynulfo A. Juan of Mines and Geo-Sciences Bureau in Bicol. Mr. Juan sent me a registered mail, informing Governor Lee about my complaint.


In his letter to the Governor, Director Juan said, “(M)ay we recommend that the Provincial Government conduct the necessary validation on the issues being raised and to inform Mr. Lariosa directly on the actions taken by your office”?




G overnor Lee told me, the “Permit Holder (on Balocawe mining) was issued with an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) dated Aug. 13, 2009, by the DENR Environment Management Bureau (EMB V) on the basis of the submitted Project Study and Initial Environmental Examination Report after thorough evaluation of that Office who (sic) has the authority and capacity to undertake environmental assessment of projects within their area of jurisdiction.”


Mr. Governor, the permit was issued in August 2009, three years after the scathing Commission Report. My question to you is this: Did you get an assurance that remedial measures have now been undertaken since the Commission’s report in 2006 that indicted the “DENR, its bureaus (i.e. MGB (Mines and Geo-Sciences) and EMB (Environmental Management Bureau), its regional offices, including its monitoring team, (as) to be so dysfunctional as to be unable to prevent the occurrence of the October (fish-kill) incidents? They simply did not have the sufficient capability of monitoring mining operations in Rapu-Rapu. Worse, though, is that if they had the capability, then they utterly lacked (the) will”?


Does the mining permit holder have the LFI’s and LG’s of Korea combined resources in capital investment of $55-million to operate a much-bigger “small mining” operation that will ensure the public safety or ensure public health and not violate anti-pollution requirements by installing “control devices”? If so, who are his business partners?


In the event of a disaster, like a massive fish kills, or loss of the threatened Philippine Eagle owl (Bubo, Philippines), whose nest will be displaced by the clearing of the biodiversity area and occurrence of mudslides, is the permit holder capable of buying disaster insurance from Lloyds of London to appropriately compensate future victims, who in your words, may run into “unwarranted and untold sufferings”?


If you can answer, “yes” to all these questions, I will be behind this permit holder.


Meanwhile, I am appealing to President Noynoy Aquino and the Commission on Appointments to keep and confirm Mr. Paje as DENR Secretary and keep or promote Director Juan just for responding to my e-mail. Any other Cabinet Secretary or Bureau Director would have just deleted my e-mail complaint from their junk e-mails.


Happy New Year to all! # # #


Editor’s Note: To contact the author, please e-mail him at:  (


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Last Updated on Saturday, 15 January 2011 07:57
Comments (4)
1 Sunday, 02 January 2011 12:11
Thank you Bobby for forwarding Mr. Lariosa's email. There are concrete actions that need to be taken to fight this mining activities in Matnog. We all agree their are violations being committed by this mining company in Matnog, thanks to the support being given by Gov.Lee to this company. It makes me wonder why this governor have so much commitment to this company? Now I hear people that live near the area where mining is happening is allegedly being paid P800 a day to do some task. Is this the job that this governor is supposedly giving the people?, it's more like suhol for them to be complacent. Nag aaprobetsar san pagtios san mga tawo. This governow makes me sick! He has no business being a governor!. All Sorsoganons with conscience should not tolerate this kind of government officials who suck the blood out of the people in the guise of helping. Mautak ini si Raul Lee. The people who are receiving this so called "jpb" will be fighting against those people working to remove mining out of Matnog because they will now think that this money is helping them without realizing that they are really digging their own grave. This governor is doing what is called, divide and conquer. How typical!!!

Get out of Sorsogon Raul Lee, yo have made out enough from the blood of the people of Matnog!!
2 Wednesday, 05 January 2011 07:42
From: marcos paras < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
To: Joseph Lariosa < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Sent: Tue, January 4, 2011 1:09:47 AM

Sorsogon City
January 4, 2011

Dear Joseph
< This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

I got your story, "Save Matnog - stop the iron ore project" which I used for my Jan. 5/11 issue.

I'll furnish Governor Lee with a copy of Sorsogon Today to get his reaction on your story.

Please e-mail me regularly your stories, especially those that deal about Sorsogon.

Any plan of coming home?

Sorsogon Today will observe its 34th foundation anniversary on Jan. 10, this year.

Competition is already stiff among the four local weeklies, but we can still survive, with our well-written stories as our additional passport to the competition.

Best regards.

MARK E. PARAS, JR. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
3 Wednesday, 05 January 2011 07:44
Hi, Mark:

It's good to hear from you.
It's good to know you are running my column that appeared in Bobby Reyes'
That's cool.
Please let me know the reaction of Governor Lee to my column, so I can write a follow-up.
Hayaan mo, pag-igwa ako sin story or column with Sorgogon interest, I will send it to you.
So, 3 na pala ang kalaban mong weeklies, eh twice-monthly lang ang Sorsogon Today. Mabigat ka!
Congratulations to your 34th anniversary! Baga an kahapon lang.
Sige, Happy New Year gihapon saimo nan sa mga mahal mo sa buhay!


Journal Group Link International
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4 Wednesday, 05 January 2011 07:56
Hi, Ms. Escudero:

From the tenor of the letter of Governor Lee to me, it said that the Sangguniang Bayan of Matnog issued a Resolution recommending to the local chief executive the temporary suspension of the mining operations conducted at Barangay Balocawe, "pending compliance with basic requirements for mining."

A member of the SB of Matnog should now challenge the permit holder to show "compliance with basic requirements for mining" as laid down in the "Presidential Rapu-Rapu Fact Finding Commission Report" as it is the latest standard in the mining industry:
Among others,
1. a letter of credit, showing that the permit holder has enough money in the bank to cover the undertaking, including payment for damages to residents in the area, like insurance coverage, in case, there is a violation of the mining law;

2. for transparency, the names and addresses and past capabilities of these miners should be made public and of the financiers of the undertaking, whose capacity to pay and track record should be vetted by the SB members and that these miners/financiers are willing to be sued in event of violation of mining law; In fact, for the benefit of the Matnog residents, who will be affected by the mining operation, they should be given an option to sue the Matnog, Sorsogon and Philippine governments in case of disaster so these governments will be very careful in considering grant of mining permit to anybody and this will give a peace of mind to these residents.

3. how much tax will the miners/financiers be paying to the municipality, province, and national governments? If the municipality of Matnog/province of Sorsogon and Philippine governments will only earn a minuscule tax as in 2% excise tax that the LPI of Australia-LG of South Korea paid to Rapu-Rapu mining concern, what benefits are the miners/financiers talking about for Matnog, Sorsogon and Philippine governments for this mining undertaking?

Since the contract of Matnog with the Permit Holder took effect from Sept. 23, 2009 to Sept. 22, 2010, can't the Matnog SB ask the mining permit holder, who much he did pay in taxes to the town of Matnog, province of Matnog and the Philippine governments so far, before an "option to renew for the same length period" can ever be extended?

4. who can attest that the oversight of the bureau of mines is competent to oversee the Balocawe mining operation so as to prevent a disaster in the likes of Rapu-Rapu's?

5. And did Governor Lee offer help to Sorsoganons, who were affected by "fish kills" in the Rapu-Rapu in 2005? If so, what kind of help was extended by the provincial government to its residents affected? Was the “help” fair enough to the satisfaction of Sorsogon residents? If not, did Governor Lee even consider suing the miners of Rapu-Rapu at all or the Rapu-Rapu municipality or Albay or the Philippine governments that allowed the mining operation of Rapu-Rapu? If so, what happened to the lawsuit?

These are some issues that should first be resolved by the SB of Matnog before it lifts its "temporary suspension” and even consider extending the mining contract.

Otherwise, the SB of Matnog should now make its "temporary suspension" of this contract permanent.

As in the Rapu-Rapu precedent, it is very clear that the permit holder should not be granted permit to operate mining business in Balocawe unless the SB of Matnog agrees.

So an information drive on this topic should be circulated to educate the SB members of Matnog of the issues involved in this mining question for now since Governor Lee has no power to undo the SB resolution if we go by the Presidential Rapu-Rapu Fact Finding Commission Report.

Any court action at this time is premature.

You can spread this course of action for now in Matnog.

Thanks for checking.


Journal Group Link International
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