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CHR shuns complaints on human rights violations at Tanjay 'black sand mining' issue

DUMAGUETE CITY, Feb. 24 –- The lone special investigator of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Negros Oriental said his office will not entertain any complaints in relation to the impasse at the controversial alleged “black sand mining” operation in Tambacan, Tanjay City, Negros Oriental.

Dr. Jesus Cañete, Ph.D., explained that it will be a waste of time and useless for him to accommodate such complaints for as long as the issue on the “black sand mining” in Sitio Tambacan, Barangay 4 in Tanjay City, which protesters say is in the guise of dredging would not be solved.

According to the CHR local chief, while the contractor for the so-called dredging and the local government unit of Tanjay City may have obtained the necessary permits, such as the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, he believes that there was a “blunder” from the very start of the project.

They (the contractor, Sino-Italy Philippines, Inc.) and the Tanjay City LGU “failed or rather deliberately ignored one essential element” which is to hold proper consultation with the people, Cañete said.

He explained that during a consultation in Tanjay attended by concerned parties, the LGU presented a resolution from the barangay council of Poblacion Barangay 4, where the project site is located, that was signed by Tambacan officials.

When asked if the document carries the sentiment of the people, he was told it did, but he said he does not believe so.

“I believe there was no consultation with the people, otherwise, they would not be complaining now and the ongoing protest action in Tambacan would not have taken place,” he said.

As to the mineral processing plant erected in Tambacan, Cañete said he believes that this should be taken down. According to him, if the project was dredging per se, there would be no need for high-end equipment and an operations plant.

On human rights violations, Cañete stressed that he cannot blame the police for exercising their mandate to maintain peace and order at the Tambacan protest site, where residents have established barricades to prevent employees of Sino-Italy access to the mineral processing site.

But, on the other hand, he cannot also hold the residents accountable of any “violations” as they are merely exercising their “right”.

The barricading of the access road in Tambacan is only a side issue and what bears more weight on the controversy is for the LGU to submit to the people’s will.

The people have been denied of their right to information, said Cañete, referring to the perceived absence of public consultation, and government transparency has now been compromised, he added.

Tanjay City officials headed by Mayor Lawrence Teves have repeatedly explained and insisted that the multi-million-peso project is to dredge Tanjay River to prevent future flooding. Because the project is costly, the LGU has inked an agreement with the contractor that whatever minerals obtained in the process of dredging will go to them.

However, many quarters believe that the project is not dredging per se but a full-scale black sand mining operations, which now has left an impasse as Governor Roel Degamo has issued a cease-and-desist order until a dredging permit from the provincial government has been obtained. (PNA)

LAP/JFP

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