LINGAYEN, Pangasinan — “I’m sad about it, but it is there. We have to face it.”
Thus said Governor Amado Espino Jr. on Wednesday (March 16) when asked about the graft charge filed by the Office of the Ombudsman against him for allegedly authorizing black sand (magnetite) mining in Lingayen.
The issue “has long been there,” the governor told members of the media after he delivered his speech as guest speaker during the Provincial Population Congress at the Narciso Ramos Sports and Civic Center here.
It was brought up in 2012 during the election period and it was brought up again now during the election fever, he added.
“Nagulat ako biglang lumabas sa Sandiganbayan kung kelan malapit na ang election, (I was surprised why it came out suddenly in the Sandiganbayan when the electron is now nearing),” Espino said.
The governor was charged on March 15 with two counts of graft before the Sandiganbayan for allegedly issuing permits to two unqualified mining companies to mine Lingayen in Lingayen in 2011. The governor has since denied the charge.
Also charged were provincial administrator Rafael Baraan, Provincial Housing and Urban Development Officer Alvin Bigay, and 13 private individuals from the Alexandra Mining and Oil Ventures Inc. and Xypher Builder Inc.
Espino said they have not yet received a copy of the case documents.
He then reiterated that the complainants themselves, except for one, and even officials of government environment agencies have long pronounced that there was no black sand mining activities in the ecotourism zone covering four barangays in Lingayen namely Sabangan, Estanza, Malimpuec, and Capandanan.
“I assure everybody that we will answer all the charges,” he said.
Previously, the governor said the black sand issue was solely political since his son is running for Governor while he himself is running for congressman in the fifth district of Pangasinan.
“The real issue here is not the black sand…This is happening because they don’t want me and my son to run,” he then said.
The Espinos are running against the husband-wife tandem of former Congressman Mark Cojuangco and incumbent fifth district representative Kimi Cojuangco. PNA/northboundasia.com)