Bulacan envi execs axed for coddling illegal mining activities
07 April 2017
The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the dismissal from the service of two high-ranking officials from the Bulacan Environment and Natural Resources Office (BENRO) for Grave Misconduct in connection with mining activities in the province.
In a decision approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, Provincial Department Head Rustico De Belen and Antonio Cacdac, from the Natural Resources Management Division of the BENRO, were ordered dismissed from the service. They were also meted the accessory penalties of perpetual disqualification from holding public office, cancellation of eligibility and forfeiture of retirement benefits. In case of separation from the service, the penalty is convertible to a fine equivalent to respondents’ one year salary.
The Ombudsman uncovered that in 2011, respondents issued six Ore Transport Permits (OTP) and a Mineral Ore Export Permit (MOEP) in favor of a certain Lucila Valdez and Eduardo Mercado. Under the law, in order to be qualified to be an OTP grantee, an applicant must have a valid and existing Small Scale Mining Permit (SSMP) issued by the Provincial Governor upon the recommendation of the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB).
Records of the case showed that in 2008, the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources cancelled the SSMPs granted to Valdez and Mercado. It was also established that in 2012, the Regional Director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) issued two letters requesting the provincial Governor of Bulacan, through De Belen, to refrain from further issuing OTPs using cancelled/voided SSMPs. The MGB also enjoined the mining operators to cease and desist from conducting mining or ore recovery operations without valid mining permits.
According to the Ombudsman, “a reading of Provincial Ordinance No. C-005 clearly shows that respondent De Belen does not have the sole authority to grant and approve OTPs and MOEPs, and that the PMRB of the Province of Bulacan never authorized him, as head of the BENRO, to issue OTPs for all llic minerals extracts from small-scale mining areas.”
“De Belen’s issuance of the OTPs and MOEPs, based on the favorable recommendation of Cacdac, is characterized by stubbornness and open defiance of the DENR decision which clearly show respondents’ propensity to willfully violate the law,” stated Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.
She added that, “this Office finds respondents’ reasoning—that they issued the OTPs and MOEPs to give private respondents Valdez and Mercado an opportunity to recover their expenses—shallow and flimsy since the subject SSMPs in the first place, were declared void for being issued in violation of various mining laws and that the minerals extracted are not considered among the authorized quarry resources.”
The Decision also stated that “respondents unjustifiably turned a blind eye and repeatedly issued OTPs and MOEPs in favor of Valdez and Mercado” and that respondents “failed to observe the proper procedure in issuing the OTPs and MOEPs when they did not secure the approval of the PRMB.” ###