LILAND ZOILA BUSTAMANTE-ESTACION, M.D. (LP) Sanggunuang Panlalawigan (SP) Member – 1st District, Negros Oriental

Delivered during the Regular Session of the SP 29 March 2011 SP Session Hall, Legislative Bldg.

To the Honorable presiding officer, our esteemed members of this August Body, a warm good afternoon to all of you.

With natural calamities and man-made disasters hounding our planet, our home, such as the most recent catastrophe in Japan, the seemingly unpredictable weather – did you know that recently PAGASA issued an advisory that we will be experiencing a wet summer this year? Well, they did and the advisory emphasized that there will be widespread rains in the Visayas region that may trigger landslides.

These unusual weather patterns is telling of a troubled planet, and as leaders in our small communities, the burden of ensuring that we do our share in helping heal our planet, rests on our shoulders, the elected leaders of this land.

Truly, this is a time for us to act and not just debate on environmental issues.

Members of this August body, I have taken this opportunity to speak before you on matters of environmental concern.

As we have discussed just recently, this Representation, together with Board Members Jessica Koppin Villanueva and Georgita Fabugais-Martinez, have filed an inquiry before this August body on the mining operations in the Municipality of Ayungon, and for agencies concerned to explain on the alleged anomalies in granting these private companies the right to exploit our resources at the expense of our mountains, our forests, our province’s precious natural resources, and our people’s well-being.

Never mind the legality, since I presume that somehow these companies were able to procure the needed documents to make their operations legal, but the morality, the ethical and environmental responsibilities that go with the operation or in procuring whatever document is needed in the operation, has this been evaluated properly?

This operation, which apparently has small scale permit but turns out to be large-scale using heavy equipment, is very questionable, most especially since it seems that the local

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government, especially the barangay, has not benefited from it, perhaps with the exception of some local officials. The province, most especially, have not benefited from the operation, so why are we continuing to give them the permit to exploit our resources?

They are taking away precious resources from our province, like sands from our seas which is being taken to Leyte and Bohol, but what does our province get in return?

The resources in our province were given to us by our Creator for our people to take benefit from, not for other people to profit from.

So why is the Environment and Natural Resources Department so keen in giving them the permit to operate? Now, perhaps our ENRD Officer is not aware of this province’s Tax Ordinance No. 2, series of 1998 as amended by Tax Ordinance No. 2, series of 2002. For everybody’s benefit, let me site some salient points of this ordinance, pertinent to our request.

Article III, Section 12 states that, and I quote:

Renewal of permits shall be effected by filing in legal form a letter request OR written application for renewal to be filed on or before the expiry date of said permit, ONLY, take note, ONLY the clearance of the Inter-Local Tax Committee is required.

With this, I am surprised why the Environment and Natural Resources Department is making it hard for us to renew the permit needed for us to be able to get the materials that we need in order to finish a government project?

Furthermore, and more importantly, Mr. Presiding Officer, for government projects instituted by a Local Government Unit and/or government agency or instrumentality, conditions, limitations and/or requirements prescribed by said Ordinance is suspended or dispensed.

That is according to Article VI, section 25 of the said Ordinance.

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Given the difficulty that we have experienced in acquiring a permit, for the extraction of materials that is direly needed for the benefit of the Negrenses, how difficult was it for mining operators in Ayungon to get their permit to extract minerals and resources from our province for them to be able to profit from it and bring it to other places?

From my perspective, correct me if I’m wrong as this is only an observation, it seems that our ENRD is a strict face for those who are working for the benefit of the people of this province, and a much lax and casual face for private for-profit mining operators, seemingly denying to see any ill effects brought about by commercial mining whose only purpose is to squeeze the province dry of its resources.

If this continues, what will there be left for our next generation? Our environment is very sick, and we can’t afford to close our eyes on practices that can do it more harm. We can’t continue to create double standards that would welcome those whose purpose is selfish and be righteous when it comes to dealing with legitimate concerns.

Government has created departments and organizations in order to ensure that our resources, that our environment, will be protected, because our government recognizes the truth that the health of its environment reflects the health of its people. If these agencies do not perform their duties properly, what future would we have? It is therefore, this representation’s prayer, that this August body be more pro-active in its environmental policies and assert its responsibility to protect the people who have given their confidence and trust on them.

I pray that this August body would exert all effort to demand from the Executive Branch of this government to fulfill its duty in implementing the laws that this August body have crafted for the betterment of this province, because what use will the laws that this August body would craft if the concerned agency, in this case, ENRD, has no desire of translating them into action. What use will all these papers that we have, piling on our cabinets and desks, eating up the

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spaces in our hard drives, if those whom the people have entrusted to implement the laws, could not assert its influence over the very people that it in turn entrusted to oversee its many functions.

Let us then help our executive in achieving his goals, and let us push him to assert his authority over the very people that have been given the responsibility to oversee his many functions and responsibilities.

There is a need for us to ensure the security and safety of our people and our environment.

Thank you.

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