BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines – The Department of Justice has recommended the filing of criminal charges against 23 Chinese nationals for alleged illegal extraction of black sand along the coastline of Aparri in Cagayan.
Rommel Baligod, regional state prosecutor, said they found probable cause to charge the foreign nationals, along with their three Filipino companions, for alleged theft of about 150 metric tons of black sand from the villages of Paddaya and Dodan in Aparri in August last year.
The resolution dated Jan. 6 reversed an earlier ruling of the Cagayan prosecutor’s office, which dismissed the illegal mining charges filed against the respondents.
The provincial prosecutor’s decision prompted the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in the region, which apprehended the suspects to elevate the case to the regional prosecutor’s office in November last year.
The respondents were identified as Wang Wendong, Yang Yonglian, MaPeihua, Zhu Liren, Hou Linlin, Fu Yujun, Xiao Peibao, Li Wenyong, Li Liming, Jin Dejun, Li Laijie, Wang Chengqiang, Jiang Bin, Lin Quiang, Xu Jianjun, Jiang Bin, Lin Quing, Xi Jianjun, Jiang Nan, Zheng Feng, Wang Gongliang, Gao Dejun and Zhang Deliang, and their Filipino companions as Rebecca Gregorio, Atanacio Hipolito and Alejandro Fernandez.
They were charged with violation of Republic Act 7942 or the Mining Act of 1995, particularly illegal extraction and disposition of minerals.
The three Filipinos were said to be among the officers of the Hua Xia Mining and Trading Corp. where the Chinese were working when they were arrested by joint operatives from the NBI and Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).
The respondents were allegedly caught constructing mineral processing plants and extracting magnetite sands near the seashore in the two Aparri villages.
Extraction of black sand has allegedly been going on for years in northern Cagayan coast amid opposition from the Church and anti-mining advocates, who claimed that such activities would expose the residents and the ecosystem to massive floods and erosions.
Black sand or magnetite is used as an additive in the manufacturing of concrete and steel products, magnets, paint, ink, paper, jewelry and cosmetics, making it a very lucrative commodity in foreign markets such as in China and Taiwan.
Besides Cagayan, magnetite extractions are also reportedly being undertaken in other parts of the country such as in the Ilocos region and Zambales as well as in the Visayas.
Recently, the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) recommended to Malacanãng the suspension of all black sand mining operation in the country, citing adverse effects to the lives of coastal communities and marine resources.
Engineer Mario Ancheta, MGB director for Cagayan Valley, said that they would abide by President Aquino’s decision on the matter.