Twelve foreign vessels believed to be from China were allegedly seen illegally mining black sand in Caoayan town, Ilocos Sur. Residents were able to take pictures of the vessels and the piles of sands believed extracted in the area. The source said proof of the mining operation was the presence of drilling boats and a backhoe at the coastal area. “Residents said all the vessels were marked ‘Hercules.’ They are certain that the cargo ships were foreign owned and suspected to be from China, as shown from the markings on its side such as Hai Ran 86 and Zhou Hoo 0618 with Chinese characters,” the source added. Abandoned black sand mining sites in the adjacent village of Caparacadan, also in Caoayan town, and in Barangay Nagtupacan in San Vicente town were also found with dilapidated structures built in the area. Accordingly, the provincial environment and natural resources office has no authority to issue permits for mining, except for quarry operations for areas covering five hectares and below. The only agency authorized to issue permits to mining companies is the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.