By ALLAN MEDIANTE, Executive Editor
A MULTI-AGENCY task force is set to investigate the alleged illegal mining activities that caused the alarming discoloration of the gold-rich Iponan River that traverses Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities, and the town of Opol in Misamis Oriental.
In a department order issued by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) undersecretary for fields operation Ernesto D. Adobo Jr., the DENR has tasked the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in Northern Mindanao (Region 10) to create a composite team that will investigate the reported illegal hydraulic operations by miners along the river.
The task force called Unified Task Force Iponan is primarily tasked to address the perennial problem of siltation and sedimentation of Iponan River brought about by the illegal activities in the river and the upland barangays in the area.
For his part, party-list Rep. Maximo Rodriguez of Abante Mindanao also sounded alarm over the incident.
In a press conference last week, Rodriguez said the continued mining activities along the Iponan River has caused the alarming levels of cyanide in the river.
“The Iponan River has been turned into a big-time mining zone. You could see from a plane the discoloration of the river. It has even reached the Macajalar Bay. The danger is that we might soon find ourselves eating fish poisoned by cyanide,” he said.
In Congress, the Abante Mindanao solon, together with his brother, Cagayan de Oro 2nd district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, has filed House Bill 1064 that would official make Cagayan de Oro a mining-free city.
The bill is now being tackled by the Senate’s environment committee chaired by Sen. Francis Escudero.
Rodriguez said illegal miners are getting the riches out of the river and yet they have not been properly compensating the local communities directly affected by their operations.
“We are at the losing end since there is no transparency on the part of mining companies,” Rodriguez said.
On the other hand, Unified Task Force Iponan is now finalizing a draft memorandum of agreement defining and delineating the functions, duties and responsibilities of participating agencies.
The creation of the special task force hopes to put a stop to all illegal hydraulic operations in the identified areas and prevent the illegal miners from going back to hydraulic operations.
Apart from finding effective solutions to the recurring siltation and sedimentation problems of Iponan River, the task force also aims to continually plan and implement strategies that would lead to a win-win solution into the problem.