I read with interest the article of two people arrested and charged with mineral theft in Eastern Samar.
This kind of thing is rampant all over the Philippines so the question is why is the DENR not applying the law equally all over the country?
You could go to virtually any province in the Philippines and find people stockpiling Chromite, Copper, Manganese and other ores without having any permits to mine, haul or trade in minerals.
If would be so simple for the DENR to act nationwide and stamp out the illegal mining activities, but in reality the DENR and MGB more than turn a blind eye to what is going on, but are aiding and abetting the illegal activities.
You might think that is a strong statement but in reality with small scale mining activities it is supposedly regulated through the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board’s of each province.
These boards comprise of members of the MGB and DENR amongst others, so whatever OTP’s (Ore Transport Permits) are issued, they are issued through the respective PMRB offices and in turn, after the PMRB has issued an order of payment then the respective Governor will sign off on the OTP.
As you drive through the country through most provinces you will notice multiple DENR check points, so how does this stock measuring in the hundreds and even thousands of tons pass these check-points?
The answer is the only permit that is needed has a special name in the Philippines, called SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) meaning the truck driver as they go past will usually drop the DENR patrol staff 500-1000 peso per truck.
You may ask how can this mining activity up in the mountain get past the Barangay Captain and local officials, well of course it can not but once again the magical SOP permits you to actively mine illegally in the area so long as when you haul the SOP is there.
In any province the PMRB is well aware of the existing small scale mining permits, however the source of the stock is often not from the site of the mining permit itself.
However what usually happens the Governor of that province tends to restrict the quantity of approved SSMP’s to only a few, which inevitably are for people who are close to him, then the illegal mining is encouraged through the whole province.
The reason for this is the illegal miners are now forced to “lean-on” the existing mining permits. The illegal miners are free to sell to whom they wish however to obtain an OTP requires them to course the documentation through one of the approved SSMP’s and then pay an SOP to the claimant for using their permits.
This SOP is typically an un-receipted amount usually between 2-4 peso’s a kilo, depending on the ore and the province and from this amount the permitee would normally receive one peso a kilo whilst the balance is paid direct to the Governor and the PMRB members who keep the system running.
This obviously includes the DENR and MGB members of the PMRB so you may ask what happened in Eastern Samar for these two to get caught? Well I can’t say I have had personal experience in Eastern Samar, although I am often offered stock for sale from there, but I would dare to say the two who were stopped were probably stepping on the toes of other “protected” buyers.
Let me elaborate often not only is the issuance of permits restricted but also the people who can go buy “direct” from the (illegal) source. Say for instance you find out that the actual people who are doing the hard work of extracting the minerals are really getting under-paid meaning they might earn only 2 peso per kilo, but the “protected” buyer wants to sell it to the international traders for 20 peso a kilo, now should that international trader (or the Filipino people they employ) want to go direct to the source and offer them say 10 peso per kilo, well this is very frowned upon. So there you have it… the source of the complaint against the two that were “caught” and charged with mineral theft.
Although it is a positive move to have these two people caught, what about everyone else? How difficult would it be for the DENR to wipe out this illegal mining activity?
Actually the solution would be very easy to identify the areas where the illegal mining is occurring, if the DENR just had a few people policing this matter posing as buyers you would very rapidly expose every illegal operation.
Imagine all it would take is for the under-cover DENR operative to pose as a buyer, go visit the sellers and take photo’s of the stock-pile and operation….BUSTED!
Now with this data cross-reference against the existing approved permits and anyone in possession of minerals without the proper permits would be arrested and charged, within a matter of months the DENR would wipe out this illegal trade.
Then the minerals confiscated could be sold/auctioned to legitimate registered traders of minerals and that would more than finance the whole operation.
So why is this not done? Of course the answer is simply if you stop the illegal mining then how are these corrupt government officials going to earn money?
What is posted here is not a matter of my opinion, it is a matter of fact from my personal experience in the industry.