THE family of the original holder of a mining concession in Tubay, Agusan del Norte, is calling on Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to make good his vow to “make an example” of a mining firm whose owner is described as a “crony” of Pres. Benigno Aquino III and a top financier of the Liberal Party.
“Small-scale miner,” Rodney A. Basiana, whose family owns the Basiana Mining Exploration Corp., (BMEC), also called on the government to “review” the presidential award for “best mining practices” given to ‘SR Metals, Inc.’ (SRMI) and its owner, Patrick Angelo ‘Eric’ Gutierrez, last year, its third in the last three years.
Basiana said he found the award given to SRMI and Gutierrez, “highly questionable,” given that the company was forced to shut down its operations last April “due to pressure from President Duterte.”
He added a separate complaint is now also pending before the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLAC) against Gutierrez and his company.
BMEC claims to have the original exploration right over the 81-hectare property in the villages of La Fraternidad, Binuangan and Sta. Ana in Tubay, Agusan Del Norte now being mined by SRMI.
Basiana remains entangled in a legal fight against SRMI, claiming their concession had been “grabbed” by Gutierrez’s group in 2005 through deceit and forgery.
In one of Pres. Duterte’s first public speeches in July 2016, Basiana recalled the Chief Executive even lambasted SRMI in front of his San Beda College of Law classmates, telling Gutierrez that, “Gutierrez (you cannot) destroy Tubay in Agusan del Norte.”
Duterte at the time also noted that SRMI was even fined P77 million for violating environmental laws but only paid P7 million. The President vowed to “make an example” of the company.
But according to Basiana, Gutierrez and other top SRMI officials appear unperturbed despite the President’s tirade and are also merely “laughing off” his legal claim, allegedly telling him they can prolong the case “until the end” of the Duterte administration.
SRMI top officials “are boasting that they will just drag this matter until the end of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term. I am growing apprehensive that such is not an empty boast, it is even a threat,” Basiana said, adding:
“It is high time that President Duterte made good his vow to make an example of this abusive company packed with officials and financiers of the past administration.”
Gutierrez once served as the treasurer of the Liberal Party (LP) and among those who bankrolled the candidacies of President Aquino III in 2010 and the failed presidential bid in 2016 of interior secretary Manuel ‘Mar’ Roxas II.
Another LP stalwart sitting on the board of SRMI since it was founded more than a decade ago is party spokesman Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice.
Basiana said through machination by the group of Gutierrez and Erice, SRMI succeeded in “usurping” their original application for a “Mineral Production Sharing Agreement” (MPSA) for “small-scale mining” with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) that they filed in July 1997. BMEC then deeded its right over the Tubay concession area to SRMI in 2005 under an agreement.
Basiana said when they decided to cancel their deal with the group of Gutierrez and Erice due to massive violation of environmental laws, they discovered their original right had already been taken over by SRMI without proper authority.
“It is highly improbable for SR Metals to have filed the MPSA application (in 1997) because it was organized and registered with the SEC only on May 10, 2005,” Basiana pointed out.
Acting on the information forwarded by Basiana, the DENR this month asked the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs, to investigate SRMI for possible tax fraud.
The report noted that since SRMI started its operation in 2006, it has already breached, “many times over,” its 50,000 ton yearly ore-extraction limit as a small-scale miner and that, “within a decade,” SRMI already realized more than P28 billion in revenues.
At a Senate inquiry in 2012, Gutierrez had admitted that in a span of a single year, they shipped some 1.8 million tons of mineral ore to China, well in excess of the limit imposed by law.