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Dumaguete City, PhilippinesTuesday, February 25, 2014
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CHR shuns gripes in
Tanjay impasse

Jesus Cañete, the lone investigator of the Commission on Human Rights in Negros Oriental, has warned that his office will not entertain any complaints related to the impasse in the controversial alleged “black sand mining” operation in Tambacan, Tanjay City, Negros Oriental.

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

He said that 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 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 said 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.

Asked if the document carries the sentiment of the people, he said he was told it did, but added that 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. If the project was dredging per se, there would be no need for high-end equipment and an operations plant, he said.

On human rights violations, Cañete said he cannot blame the police for maintaining peace and order at the protest site, where residents have established barricades to prevent employees of Sino-Italy access to the mineral processing site.

But, he said he also cannot hold the residents accountable for any violations as they are merely exercising their rights.

Cañete said the people have been denied of their right to information, referring to the perceived absence of public consultation, and government transparency.

Tanjay officials, led by Mayor Lawrence Teves, have repeatedly insisted that the multi-million pesos 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 are obtained in the dredging will go to them.

Gov. Roel Degamo, meanwhile, has issued a cease-and-desist order until a dredging permit from the provincial government has been obtained.*JFP


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