photos by Jalmz
(An editorial of concern for Biliran)
First Posted 07:50 PM 12/01/2008
Some decision-makers at the Biliran Capitol do not seem to run out of stealth in their attempts to steal from the patrimony of the Biliranons.
The scandals involving overpriced hospital equipment and computers, Capitol equipment, materials and paid labor that went into the construction of a private resort, and the exhaustion of the loan potentials of the provincial government with the banks, were apparently not enough.
This time around, we are faced with two issues pertaining to small-scale mining in the province, one already exhausted, the other still forthcoming. Both came like thunderbolts on a hot summer day.
Away from the public eye, the provincial government issued on May 6, 2008 a permit for small-scale sulfur mining at Sitio Pulang Yuta in Barangay Cabibihan, Caibiran to one Ranulfo F. Kuizon. Some reliable sources have it that the permit was worth P2.5 to P3-million in goodwill money for the signatory.
Then suddenly, the sulfur mining permit was revoked effective Oct. 16, 2008. This action came in the heels of another small-scale mining activity, this time for white-clay in Barangay Tucdao, Kawayan that was exposed in the Internet. The latter is facing serious opposition from local residents and cause-oriented, pro-environment groups, while the mining in Caibiran is still continuing despite the official revocation of its permit.
Of course, the public should not be easily swayed by the revocation notice posted in Caibiran. It is more of a bureaucratic tactic to cover up for somebody’s mischief, after his hand was caught in the cookie jar. We can only believe its worth after every truck, piece of equipment or structure has been removed from Pulang Yuta.
The reasons for the revocation of the permit by the governor were as crazy as the reason for issuance in the first place: 1) to have the workers undergo medical check-up; 2) conduct reforestation activities within and adjacent the mined-out areas; and 3) non-use of heavy equipment in extracting sulfur materials as provided for in mining laws.
The contentious issue in the first reason is really the use of child labor, and not only the workers’ exposure to health risks. The sulfur fumes and dust might cause some respiratory problems, but sulfur is good for skin diseases, so the benefit-harm factor is almost even. The second reason is as absurd as the logic of its signatory: few trees will ever thrive in a sulfur field and hot volcanic ground. As for the third reason, the photographs of trucks and trails in the mining area, now posted in the Internet, speak for themselves.
The entire mining area might look vast and wide at the ground level. But a Google Earth map of the Caibiran grid would show that the four active vents and volcanic cracks that provide the sources of sulfur cover only a total of about one square-kilometer. Still this could not justify the environmental rape and the attendant abuse of power and influence that accompanied this mining activity’s fruition in the first place.
We believe that this seven-month old sulfur mining activity in Caibiran has already exhausted the supply of the raw material for now. It will take a few more years, probably decades, for the sulfur deposit to be replenished of its pre-mining quantity early this year. The revocation of the permit and its flimsy reasons are therefore anti-climactic.
At the end of this gross environmental rape, it will be the signatory of the permit who will have the most satisfying ejaculation and clearest profit from the venture. We can only hope that the investor could break even.
A Bureau of Science report published in 1907, complete with geologists’ estimates and cost-benefit analysis, had it that an investor in the Caibiran sulfur field would earn a net profit of only P1,500.00. Even if you multiply that profit margin a thousand times to adjust to present rates, the amount would still not equal the alleged bribe.
Let this serve as a lesson for one and all. The mine fields in Biliran are not worth it for large investors, but only for cottage industry operators, preferably natives of our place. This observation applies to the white-clay mining venture being proposed for consideration by the provincial government.
Let us never allow the export or smuggling of unprocessed raw materials such as sulfur and white clay from our province. Instead, let us invite outside entrepreneurs, or develop home-grown ones, who would introduce small industries and local employment opportunities so that we can benefit from these patrimony items in our home ground.