Gov’t mining firm faces contempt over Diwalwal
The Supreme Court has ordered the state-run Philippine Mining Development Corp. (PMDC) to explain why it should not be cited in contempt for starting the bidding process for the exploration and mining operation of the 8,100-hectare Diwalwal gold rush area in Compostela Valley.
The bidding was allegedly undertaken by the PMDC, an attached agency of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, despite the pendency of a legal dispute over the mining area before the high court.
(A VERA Files report said the government accepted on Oct. 14 letters of intent from mining firms to develop the Upper Ulip-Paraiso portion of Diwalwal consisting of 1,600 hectares. On top of this, there is an existing Memorandum of Understanding between the government and the Chinese firm Zhongxing Technology Equipment (ZTE) to explore and mine a still undisclosed part of Diwalwal.)
In a minute resolution, the SC en banc also directed the DENR and PMDC, which are represented by the Office of the Solicitor General, to file their comment on the appeal of the Southeast Mindanao Gold Mining Corp. (SEMGMC) for the issuance of a show cause order.
The Mindanao-based mining firm had questioned before the high court the propriety of respondents DENR and PMDC’s plan to bid out the exploration and mining operations of the portion of the Mt. Diwalwal mining site.
SEMGMC is the same firm that questioned the government’s “cooperative agreement” with ZTE International Investments Ltd., the investment arm of the Chinese firm ZTE Corporation, to explore, develop and operate mining sites within the Mt. Diwalwal Gold Rush Area.
ZTE Corp. was the same company awarded by government the $329-million national broadband network contract. President Arroyo cancelled the contract late last year following controversy triggered by allegations of payoffs of government officials.
SEMGMC sought a show-cause order from the SC, alleging that DENR officials committed a “contumacious act” by ignoring a direct order of the Court against bidding out the disputed 4,941 hectares of the mineral reservation located in Monkayo, Compostela Valley.
The company is also seeking a reversal of the SC First Division’s June 23, 2006 decision and referral of the case to the en banc.
The June 2006 decision gave the government full control and supervision over mining operations in Agusan-Davao-Surigao Forest Reserve known as the “Diwalwal Gold Rush Area” after it affirmed the cancellation of all exploration permits earlier issued to other private mining firms.
Proclamation 297, which was issued by President Arroyo on Nov. 25, 2002, excludes an area of 8,100 hectares, a rich tract of mineral land inside a forest reserve located in Monkayo, Davao del Norte and Cateel, Davao Oriental. – Evangeline de Vera