Defense Undersecretary Eduardo del Rosario said this as he faced the Senate blue ribbon committee's probe into the alleged illegal and destructive mining operations in Zambales.
"We confirmed from Nolcom (Northern Luzon Command ) about this information and the Philippine Navy went there last September 18 and they found 4 Chinese coast guard [ships] and 2 fishing vessels. There was no reclamation," Del Rosario said.
Senator Richard Gordon clarified the issue once more, saying: "No airport (there)?"
"Perhaps in other areas but not in Scarborough Shoal. In Bajo de Masinloc, there is none," Del Rosario answered. (READ: Duterte: No bargains with China on West PH Sea)
During the first Senate hearing, Zambales Governor Amor Deloso alleged that there was indeed illegal excavation in the mountains of the province, with the soil supposedly being used for construction in the disputed Scarborough Shoal. He also claimed this has been going on since 2013.
Deloso insinuated that his predecessor, former governor Hermogenes Ebdane Jr, granted permits to miners then. Ebdane was also accused of selling 2 mountains in the province supposedly to build a 3,500-hectare Chinese island near the shoal, which is a key source of income and livelihood for Filipino fishermen.
Ebdane denied the allegations, saying local executives have no authority over mining permits.
"I did not mean any of us got involved in those operations because we the governors, local officials, do not have any authority in the granting of permits nor operations of these large-scale mining," he told the Senate committee.
Deloso, however, has since backtracked from his earlier pronouncement. On Monday, he told senators that he has no "personal knowledge" of the matter.
This irked Gordon, who admonished the governor.
"You know, statements had been made here and now you're saying 'I've no personal knowledge.' The chair admonishes you therefore, Governor Deloso, that you should not make statements unless you have personal knowledge," Gordon said. – Rappler.com
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email email@example.com