Sunday, March 18, 2012
ANTIPOLO City, March 18, 2012—It’s the farmers versus the mining giant in Zambales as the former demand the immediate halt of large-scale mining operations in Sta. Cruz town.
In a statement, the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL) and the Movement for the Protection of the Environment (Move Now!) said that the environmental health and the livelihood of farmers and indigenous peoples in the area are being threatened by the mining operations of different mining firms namely Benguetcorp Nickel Mines, Inc. and its contractor D. M. Consunji, Inc. (DMCI), Eramen Minerals, Inc., Shangfil Mining and Trading Corp., Filipinas Mining Corp., PhilAsia and Loren and Leoni (LnL).
Joseph Canlas, chairperson of the AMGL said, they are dismayed over the granting of permits by the local officials, knowing that wide-scale mining would eat up most of the forest areas in Sta. Cruz, will mess up the waters, and will make the arable areas barren.
In the fact-finding mission organized by the groups, together with Anakpawis Partylist, the Move Now!-affiliated Agapan ng Kaligtasan at Kabuhayan (AGAP) – Zambales, and SAGIP Zambales, the team had seen the devastating effects of mining in Sta. Cruz:
Effects on the environment: the forest on the mountains were totally wiped out; the river is dead, the water is itchy to the skin, fishes and other food sources vanished, it is heavily silted; water from wells are already contaminated and made undrinkable forcing residents to buy purified water; landslides occurred in Brgy. Guisguis and Lomboy, flashfloods also eroded the soil by the river and floods became regular during continuous raining.
Effects on livelihood: rice yield dropped by 30 to 50%, previous yield reaches to 70-100 cavans per hectare which dropped to 50-70 cavans. Rice lands have been polluted with “red soil” especially during rainy season. Rice production is lower during rainy season. Lower production declined their income to sustain their daily needs. Farmers could no longer source the mountain and river for wood, food, cogon and other necessities.
Effects on people’s health: residents who accidentally drink the water from the river or contaminated wells suffer loose bowel movement and those who use it experience skin irritation. People regularly suffer cough and colds, eye irritation, itchiness as dust from trucks scatter around their community and they fear that dust contain nickel deposits. In Brgy. Canaynayan, trucks pass by the school, thus, residents fear health hazard on children.
Effects on people’s safety: people are restless as they are aware of tragedies that took place in different parts of the country caused by mining, logging and other activities that destroy the environment, such as “baka ma-Ormoc kami,” (we could experience like what occurred in Ormoc), “baka matulad kami sa Mindanao,” (what happened in Mindanao could happen here) said by residents, referring to what happened in Ormoc, Leyte in 1991 that killed more than 6,000 people due to landslides and flash flood. Residents could not sleep calmly during rains as they stay alert for flash flood. People estimate that 100 to 200 trucks pass by their community thus fearing children could be run over.
While there were promises of employment, the FFM team had found out that out of 3,500 registered voters in Brgy. Guisguis, less than 10% (around 300) were employed in the mining areas. In Brgy. Canaynayan, out of 800 eligible workers, only four (4) were employed and in barangays Guinabon and Lomboy, only 70 and three persons respectively, were employed out of 800 households.
However, Sta. Cruz is only one of the towns where big mining operations are being conducted. Move Now! revealed that almost of the Northern Zambales areas are being dug up for nickel, chromites, magnetite, copper and gold.
The groups are now calling the attention of former general Hermogenes Ebdane to look into the matter as his constituents are threatened to be deprived of their rights to land, food security, and to live in a safe and clean environment.
“It is very reasonable why Sta. Cruz farmers are demanding the cessation of mining operations in Sta. Cruz, the Central Luzon farmers support their call as mining in Zambales is not only an issue of the people of Zambales and region, but also of the entire country, as it is a plunder of our national patrimony. We have nothing to hope from the Aquino government as the president is a promoter of mining in the country, we call on the people, direct and indirect victims of mining in Zambales to unite and struggle against it,” said Canlas. [Noel Sales Barcelona/CBCPNews]
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