SORSOGON City, Sept. 25, 2011—An alliance of anti-mining advocates, including an anti-mining priest, named Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Sec. Ramon Paje in a lawsuit holding him responsible for the environmental destruction caused by small-scale mining operations in the town of Matnog, Sorsogon.
Aside from Paje, also named as respondents in the civil case were Reynulfo Juan, regional director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau-Bicol, Sorsogon Gov. Raul Lee, Antonio Ocampo, Jr., Victoria Ajero, Alfredo Aguilar and Juan Aguilar as well as the Antones Enterprises, Global Summit Mines Development Corp and TR Ore.
Matnog parish priest Fr. Alex Jerus, who was one of the complainants, said the case was necessary as government officials were not heeding the calls of their constituents.
“They are duty-bound to protect their people but it seemed that they are more bent on protecting the interests of these illegal miners,” he said.
“If they do not want to perform their duties then let the court compel them to do what they have sworn to perform,” the priest added.
Jerus said a picket line has been put up in front of Matnog municipal hall since September 15 and it would remain until end of the month.
Other complainants together with Jerus were Maricris Dolot, head of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN)- Sorsogon, and officers of the Alyansa Laban sa Mina sa Matnog (ALMMA).
Represented by Joven Laura of the National Union of People’s Lawyer, the group sought a Temporary Environmental Protection Order (TEPO) to stop the mining operation in the villages of Balocawe and Bon-ot Daco, both in the town of Matnog.
Laura said the mining operations in Barangay Balocawe and Bon-ot Daco in Matnog town are illegal as it did not have a valid permit from the DENR.
“The governor has no power to issue mining permit as there is no law that gives him authority to do so,” said Laura who was accompanied by the complainants in filing the case here Thursday at the Office of the Clerk of Court.
The lawyer said small-scale mining contract and not mining permit was awarded to licensed small-scale miners by the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board chaired by the DENR and not the governor.
“If the governor, who issued the permit, did not have such authority, then the operation is illegal and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources should have stopped it immediately but it did not,” the lawyer said.
Aside from the TEPO, the 68-page complaint also seeks the issuance of a Continuing Mandamus to ensure that the mining operation is stopped until the court resolves the case.
Matnog has been declared as a geologically hazardous area being prone to landslide and flooding as per report of the Mines and Geo-Sciences Bureau regional office.
The complainants also asked for the payment by the private respondents of a P10 million environmental rehabilitation fund to be deposited with the court to be used solely in restoring the mining area.
Each complainant also asked for a P500,000 as moral damages and another P500,000 for exemplary damages and to pay the cost of the litigation plus an attorney’s fee of P30,000.00.
Laura said the case, docketed as Case No. 2011-8338, would also test how the court would act on it being the first case for Temporary Environmental Protection Order as well as for Continuing Mandamus which are both recent introductions in the rules of court. (Bobby Q. Labalan)