Authorities raided an illegal mining operation in Misamis Oriental last May 13, resulting in the arrest of 18 suspects including five Chinese nationals.

Several heavy equipment which caused damage on roughly 7.6 hectares of land along the Iponan River in Opol, Misamis Oriental were also seized from the miners.

Satellite imagery, introduced by DENR Sec Antonia Loyzaga to monitor mining and forestry rules compliance, among others, showed massive excavations and forest destruction.

The raid was carried out by joint operatives from DENR Region 10 led by Regional Executive Director Henry Adornado and DENR Undersecretary for Field Operations-Mindanao Joselin Marcus Fragada, as well as the Mines and Geosciences Bureau; North Eastern Mindanao Regional Office of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI); and the special forces of the Philippine Army 4th Infantry Division.

Reports of the illegal activities were first received by the field team of Adornado. The reports were then confirmed through DENR’s satellite imagery at the DENR Central Office.

“I hope that the recently conducted joint operation and the succeeding monitoring and rehabilitation efforts will bring about positive changes and bring to life again the Iponan River,” Loyzaga said in a statement.

“I am calling on concerned government agencies, other stakeholders and the communities along the Iponan River and elsewhere in the country to take consistent active measures to combat illegal mining operations in their area,” she added.

The suspects were brought to the detention facility of the NBI North Eastern Mindanao Regional Office at Capitol Compound, Cagayan de Oro City and are now facing charges for violation of several environmental laws, including Republic Act (RA) 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act, RA 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act, and Presidential Decree 705 or the Forestry Code of the Philippines.

The DENR’s satellite image allowed the different government agencies to monitor and observe mining sites, and confirm and track their activities.

Under Loyzaga, whose major thrust on environmental protection and natural resource conservation includes the creation of a national environment and natural resources geospatial database, the DENR has been using current and emerging space science and technology applications across the country.

Early this year, the DENR partnered with the Philippine Space Agency to develop and generate maps, systems and tools that could monitor forest areas using satellite remote sensing, artificial intelligence and geographic information system. #