Thursday, June 12, 2008
AT LEAST 40 fisher folks and residents of Rapu-Rapu Island in Albay Province on Wednesday called on the South Korean Embassy to stop Korean investors from taking over the mining operation left by Australian firm Lafayette Philippines Inc. in their hometown.
The Rapu-Rapu residents, together with environmental activists and peasants, held protest in front of the Pacific Star Building housing the South Korean Embassy in Makati City , asking Ambassador Hong Jong-ki to provoke the pullout of the investments of Korean Resources, Inc. (Kores) in the mining operation.
Among those who travelled from Bicol to Makati to voice their opposition to the takeover is Antonio Casitas, leader of a local people's organization based in Rapu-Rapu called Sagip Isla, Sagip Kapwa.
"We came all the way from Rapu-Rapu just to ask the good ambassador to help us prevent further ruin in the island. Lafayette has already caused damaged in our environment, livelihood and health," Casitas said.
Other environmentalist groups likewise opposed the haggle between the two firms over the Rapu-Rapu mine, saying the sale to Kores is Lafayette 's manoeuvre to evade responsibilities from all the environmental and economic damages it has caused the island and its inhabitants.
"The patrimony of the people of the island and our province is being negotiated between two foreign interests, and we are being treated as powerless onlookers," said Virgilio Perdigon Jr., spokesperson for Save Rapu-Rapu Alliance.
Last April, Korean transnational companies LG International and Kores gained majority control of LPI, previously an Australian-owned company, which operated the highly controversial Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Mining Project.
In November 2005, LPI was found liable for the recurrence of cyanide spills, mine tailings and fish kills in the island, causing environmental destruction, community displacements, human rights violation, and livelihood loss to the local people.
LPI was ordered to pay P134 million to ensure the restoration and rehabilitation of the mine site, but there is no report confirming the payment of such up to this date.
"There is no reason to continue the Lafayette mining project. It should be closed for good instead of being sold off to another mining investor," said Clemente Bautista of Kalikasan-People's Network for the Environment.
"We are now just trying to recuperate from the division and damages Lafayette has brought to our people. The urgent action is the rehabilitation of the island and the compensation of mining-affected people not another mining operation," Casitas added.
The Rapu-Rapu project was the first foreign-operated Philippine project to reach the production stage after the Supreme Court upheld the legality of a 1995 mining law, which opened the sector to foreign investment.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has called for more foreign capital into the sector, which she said has huge potential to reduce poverty in hinterland areas where most of the Philippines ' mineral wealth is located. (AH/Sunnex)