By Rey P. Alcalde
SAN JOSE, Antique, July 20 (PNA) -– If Antique Gov. Rhodora J. Cadiao would have her way, she would have the Panian pit of Semirara Mining and Power Corp. (SMPC) totally closed.
“The millions (of pesos) in economic gains cannot suffice for the lives we lost,” Cadiao said.
However, she clarified that she is not pushing for the closure of the whole coal mining operation in Semirara but only the Panian pit.
The governor noted that the Panian pit is already over-mined and is dangerous as last Friday’s tragic incident that killed six miners and three others still missing is the second tragedy to happen in the pit.
“We have to take action to prevent more loss of lives. Should SMPC continue its operation, it is very likely that another accident would occur,” she said.
Sangguniang Panglalawigan Member Vincent Piccio III, who chairs the SP Committee on Environment, echoed Gov. Cadiao’s stand. He even wanted the immediate revocation and suspension of SMPC’s operation at Panian pit.
He said that SMPC has already reached a point where they are mining at 700 feet below sea level.
Atty. John I.C. Turalba, Antique’s new provincial administrator and formerly deputy special prosecutor of the Office of the Ombudsman, also subscribes to this view and thinks that it is high time the provincial government take more drastic remedial measures, considering also that there is now alarming information about possible earthquakes.
Gov. Cadiao acknowledges that the Panian mine pit is a huge source of coal and they have to consider the repercussions of the closure of the area considering that it will mean unemployment for thousands of people.
SMPC is supplying 90 percent of the coal requirements of the different power plants in the Philippines and also exports coal to Japan and China.
Gov. Cadiao said that SMPC has an alternative coal source, the East Panian expansion project which was approved by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in 2008 for 1,000 hectares.
SMPC also has secured an exploration permit for 3,000 hectares in the main island of Caluya and 5,000 hectares in Sibay Island.
The mining firm employs some 2,700 employees. However, according to the governor, only a few of them are Antiqueños as most of the workers are from Mindoro Island and other provinces.
In May 2015, the provincial government received PhP128 million in share for the utilization of natural wealth equivalent to 30 percent.
The municipal government of Caluya gets 40 percent share while Barangay Semirara receives 30 percent.
Last Friday, a portion of the northern Panian mining pit collapsed and buried workers, mostly heavy equipment drivers, with nine casualties to date, including three miners who are still missing.
Two years ago, on Feb. 13, 2013, five workers died and five others went missing and were presumed dead after the Panian pit collapsed. The area was about a kilometer from last Friday’s accident site. (PNA)