OPPOSE THE CONTINUING ONSLAUGHT ON THE EARTH
“I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and you made my inheritance detestable.” (Jeremiah 2:7)
We, the Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF), express alarm over the wanton abuse of natural resources by the Transnational Mining Corporations (TNCs) with their local cohorts in South Luzon Region, especially in Bicol. The experience of the Bicolano people is no different from the plight of local communities in mining areas throughout the country: massive environmental destruction, shrinking economic base of the people, militarization of mining communities, displacement of communities due to land-grabbing and unjust land-conversion, gross human rights violations, destruction of flora and fauna, and further impoverishment of the country. The unresolved and ever continuing polymetallic mining operations in Rapu-Rapu Island, Albay, Labo, Paracale, and Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte, the aggressive mine expansion in Aroroy, Masbate by Filminera Resources Corp., the peculiar magnetite off-shore mining in Camarines Sur by Bogo Mining Resources Corp; the Palanog Cement Plant in Albay, Panganiban and San Andres, Catanduanes, and the deeper quagmire of maldevelopment of mining in Matnog, Sorsogon challenge us to rethink our role as responsible God’s stewards of creation ( Genesis 1: 26-31 ).
Destructive mining is blatantly unethical, unjust, and senseless for it exacerbates poverty, causes dislocation of livelihood of the people, and even threatens the base of life and life itself.
It is lamentable that the national government equates TNC mining with development, and is remiss in its duties in protecting the environment to the detriment of the people. It has been proven that the negative costs of mining operations far outweigh the gains.
Thus, to further liberalize the mining industry in favour of the mining corporations as being trumpeted by the Aquino administration will mean more suffering and death, dislocation, displacement and ruin of the environment.
Hence we call on the Filipino people:
1. To oppose all destructive mining operations, both locally or foreign-owned;
2. To scrap the Mining Act of 1995;
3. To demand immediate moratorium of large scale mining
4. To demand the demilitarization of mining communities
5. To fight for justice and integrity of creation;
6. To pass the HB 4315 or the Peoples’ Mining Bill
We urge our churches and faith-based groups and institutions to pursue organizing, awareness building, and other relevant activities, and be in full solidarity with the people’s movement against destructive mining operations.
With the liberating power of the Holy Spirit, we seek strength and wisdom to carry this task of asserting the right of the earth to survive and all that dwell therein.
Ecumenical Bishops Forum
October 6, 2011
DA Reports Rise in Fish Catch But Not in Albay Gulf
In the July 12-18, 2011 issue of Diario Veritas, the Department of Agriculture reported:
Nahilingan nin senyales nin pag-asenso an sector nin pagsisira sa paagi kan pagiging aktibo kan mga regional fishing ports sa primerong quarto kan taon.
Ipinahayag nin Rodolfo Paz, an general manager kan Philippine Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA), an mga dakop kan sira an nagtaas nin maabot sa 93 porsyento sa Navotas, Iloilo, asin Sual, Pangasinan.
Siring man an nanotaran sa Davao Fish Port Complex na nagkaigwa man na 40% na pagdakul nin dakop kumparadosa dakop kan mga parasira sa kaparehong peryodo kan nakaaging taon.
Katakod kaini, pinag-engganyar kan DA an gabos na local na gobyerno sa nasyon na pakusugon an industriya nina pagsisira partikular sa aspeto kan environmental protection asin pagbukod sa mga ilegal na mga parasira.
Nakaabot kaya an report sa DA na rampante an paggamit nin mga dinamitakan mga parasira sa nagkakapirang kostal na lugar kan nasyon kun saen saro kan naunambitan digdi iyo an rehiyon Bikol.
At least two points are implied in this report. First, there are rises in fish catch in several areas of the country but not in Albay Gulf. Second, the DA blames all declines in fish catch on environmental degradation “and” illegal fishing.
On the first implication: Why is there no report of any rise in fish catch in Albay Gulf? The answer is obvious: there is in fact a precipitous decline as attested to by fishermen. A 95% decline has been reported here since 2005 the same year when Lafayette went into full operation. Why is there such a decline? We have referred that question to the DA and its line bureau BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) but no answer has ever been given. (They have not even reported any investigation conducted on the cause of death of a 15-meter sperm whale in 2010.)
We have ascribed the decline to mining in Rapu-Rapu from which flow several creeks that are discolored. Officials of Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project reply that fish catch decline is a global phenomenon (technical meeting on April 26, 2011 in EMB). Now, we have here a rebuttal to that defense - the DA report of fish catch rise in at least four areas. Fish catch decline is not a global phenomenon.
On the second implication: Since DA reports rises in fish catch in four areas of the country and calls for curtailment of illegal fishing, then it follows that after curtailing illegal fishing we can observe a rise in fish catch. In Albay Gulf, the Bantay Dagat, a local watch group against illegal fishing, has been very active in this campaign. However, the fish catch decline continues. Couple this observation with the fact that the DA confirms the presence of a fish sanctuary in Gaba Bay, Villahermosa, Rapu-Rapu . With a fish sanctuary and active campaign against illegal fishing, fish population should increase within one or two seasons but this does not happen. Hence, illegal fishing cannot be the cause. Again, we are led to the more obvious – the mining operation in Rapu-Rapu.
It should be pointed out that much of the fish catch in the past according to fishermen consisted of migratory fish from the Pacific Ocean – yellowfin tuna, kwaw, malasugi, tanguigue, sharks, etc. These species do not need the local breeding grounds in Albay Gulf to multiply. They spawn in the areas around Guam and come to Albay Gulf to feed seasonally. They pass through the gap between Rapu-Rapu and Prieto Diaz following the current. Since 2005, the catch of these species has consistently declined. Something is barring their path in that gap and that something is none other than the contamination of silt and heavy metals flowing from the mine site through the creeks and ultimately to the waters around Rapu-Rapu. The current carries the contaminants into the Albay Gulf and spreads them as the tide flows back out into the Philippine Sea.
Any way we look at the phenomenon in Albay Gulf, the glaring fact is that mining has adversely affected our food supply. Between fishing where we derive 100% of the benefits and Rapu-Rapu mining where were derive only 1/3 of 1% (according to the statement of Gov. Joey Salceda in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on March 28, 2011), we have to choose the former.
The same issue of Diario Veritas banners the headline “City secures fish trade.” It reports the plan of the Legazpi City Council “to beef up the local fishing industry through stern legislation . . . Councilor Carlos Ante had already invited the different leaders of the local fisher folk to lay out details of a proposed ordinance to secure their livelihood.” I laud the efforts of the good councilor. However, I suggest that a more comprehensive view of the problem be taken if it is ever intended to be solved. As management theory suggests, any solution should address the real cause of the problem. Limiting the analysis within the immediate vicinity of the city’s coastal waters will lead to a failure at solution.
Not too long ago, we learned that several city councilors led by then Mayor Noel Rosal visited the Rapu-Rapu mine. In the newsletter of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, Foresight, he was quoted as follows: “The mine is full of promise for the province” (Pages 9 and 11). I wrote Hon. Rosal in November 2010 (by then he had become the City Administrator) attaching photographs of the creeks colored brown, red, yellow and orange. I asked if the tour guides brought his group to the creeks. It’s September 2011 and I still have to receive a reply. I also wrote to MGB V and EMB V. Both replied that the contamination in the creeks is within “tolerable levels.”
RRMI, RRPI, LG, Kores and MSC should not think that they have succeeded in convincing the local community in their claim that the mine is operated responsibly and that the benefits they have derived translate to sustainable development of the people. The condition of the creeks, the fish catch decline and the poverty prevailing in the island all speak eloquently of the truth. Environmental damage and economic injustice have worsened. Adding insult to injury, they have praised themselves through press releases about their environmental awards while the residents of Rapu-Rapu and the fishermen of Albay Gulf continue to suffer. The contamination in the creeks may be within “tolerable levels” in the standards of the DENR but the poverty of the island residents, the fish catch decline and the environmental damage are definitely intolerable in the standards of the local community.
The DA, BFAR, DENR, Legazpi City Council, other local government units and other authorities better look into Rapu-Rapu mining honestly if they really want to solve the problem of fish catch decline in Albay Gulf. Anything less than that would not be in keeping with the public trust reposed in them.
September 4, 2011
Mining Engineers’ Conference in Legazpi City blind to local residents’ plight!
We remind the Provincial Government of Albay about the Sangguniang Panlalawigan Resolution 2011-020 issued on March 8, 2011 banning all future mining activities in the province. It should have shown consistency by expressing disfavor against the convention.
We rebuke the City Government of Legazpi for going against the sentiments of Albayanos against the continued destruction of our environment. The city has recently manifested its inability to walk the talk. In Mount Bariw, Barangay Estanza, a large swath of hillside is severely denuded yet it has done nothing. The silt from the denudation has flowed to Barangay Pinaric where it is several inches thick. In Embarcadero, large volumes of floating garbage greet the citizens whenever they go for a leisurely stroll along the boulevard. The city government has been so preoccupied with pleasing tourists but compromised the welfare of local residents who voted them into office and pay millions in taxes. Tourists bring in income but that income is just a means towards providing better living conditions for local residents. The means cannot be exchanged for the end. If the welfare of citizens is disadvantaged by the city government’s preoccupation with pleasing tourists, then it is time to withdraw the trust reposed in them during election.
The hosting of the mining engineers’ convention in Legazpi is a misstep of the city government. It betrays a failure to understand genuine environmental advocacy. While the city brags about its sanitary landfill, it fails to prove its pro-environment agenda by making a prominent endorsement of mining as a stimulant of progress. While we need products derived from mining, we insist that it should be done in the right place and the right manner. That is what responsible mining is all about. So far, however, all claims of responsible mining by many companies are nothing but hot air because of the evident damage wrought on their surroundings like what is happening in Rapu-Rapu, Aroroy, Palanog, Matnog, Paracale, Catanduanes, Caramoan, etc.
They say, if we do not want mining then we should not use the products of that industry. They are dead wrong. We want mining that does not destroy the environment. We want mining that reserves the natural resources of the Philippines for Filipinos. We want mining that spreads the fruits of development to the masses and not only to the foreign investors and their local junior partners.
We want mining that does not sacrifice our agriculture so that we protect our own food supply. Mining generally provides for non-basic needs while agriculture produces our most basic needs like food, clothing, shelter and livelihood. While mining generates a few temporary jobs, agriculture provides long-term sources of income thus genuinely assuring sustainable development.
We call on all mining engineers to support our notion of genuinely responsible mining. In view of the bad record of mining in Bicol, we ask them not to project the impression that they condone what is happening here contrary to declarations by the DENR, MGB, EMB and companies that all is well in Bicol mining. Bicol is severely suffering from the impacts of mining and the statements of the aforementioned entities are belied when we see the plight of the farmers and fishermen and the condition of our mountains, rivers, creeks and seas.
So in their visit to Rapu-Rapu today, they should make an objective assessment on the effects of mining in the island and its residents and not make it a mere field trip. They should talk to the people to know the real impact of RRPP on their lives. They tell us nothing but misery and deepening poverty. While the project heaps billions upon the foreign investors and their local junior partners, it brings “Lilliputian” benefits to the residents of the island and severe fish catch decline in Albay Gulf on which depend some 14,000 fishermen. Today, there is no more fish to catch in the gulf.
In 2010, the project earned P11.7 billion but according to Gov. Joey Salceda himself the province got a social fund of P41.71 million or a measly one-third (1/3) of 1%! If that is not enough, one can look at the creeks flowing from the mine site to the sea. They are colored yellow, orange, red and brown.
We ask the delegates to the mining conference to wake up to realities and not be deceived by the lies of those who support mining operations in Bicol.
July 19, 2011
RRPP’s Awards - Rubbing Salt on the People’s Injury
As the cliché goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. One needs only to go to the island and talk to the people to know the real impact of RRPP on their lives. They tell nothing but misery and deepening poverty. While the project heaps billions upon the foreign investors and their local junior partners, it brings “Lilliputian” benefits to the residents of the island and severe fish catch decline in Albay Gulf on which depend some 14,000 fishermen. Today, there is no more fish to catch in the gulf.
In 2010, the project earned P11.7 billion but according to Gov. Joey Salceda himself the province got a social fund of P41.71 million or a measly one-third (1/3) of 1%! If that is not enough, one can look at the creeks flowing from the mine site to the sea. They are colored yellow, orange, red and brown. Challenged to prove his belief in the reports of the Multi-partite Monitoring Team by bathing in the creeks on schedules and sites set by SARA, Director Reynulfo Juan of MGB V, showed photos of people perching on rocks in the discolored creeks on dates and sites they themselves chose. Challenged by SARA to withdraw the armed CAFGUs and allow free access and surprise visits to the creeks, Engr. Rogelio Corpus, President of RRMI, replied that they cannot allow such because they “have to protect their interests.” Hence, the interests of the environment and those of RRPP are contradictory.
The executives of RRPP can go on deluding themselves with fantastic claims of “safe and responsible mining” in Rapu-Rapu but the truth is well-known to the people who suffer much from the environmental damage and economic injustice attendant to the project. The emperor’s new clothes are well-praised by the award-giving bodies. One day, the truth will prevail and the awards will instead shatter their credibility. There is time under heaven for everything, says the Bible. Today, in the island of Rapu-Rapu and villages dependent on Albay Gulf, the people are groaning in pain. The awards are salt rubbed on their wounds while RRPP’s supporters have their photo-ops and raise their toasts of wine in fine dining. We believe that the day will come when, after being denied for so long, the people shall claim justice and RRPP’s awards will go to the dustbin.
July 18, 2011
Noon at Ngayon, Walang Responsableng Dayuhang Pagmimina sa Kabikolan!
Kahiya-hiya at malakas pa ang loob na ang itinakdang tema ng kumperensyang magaganap ay: Towards Responsible Mining: “Against All Odds”. Responsable para kanino? - Para sa mga malalaki at dayuhang korporasyon sa pagmimina kasama ng mga malalaking lokal na negosyante at para sa mga matataas na opisyales ng gobyerno at ahensya na nakikipagsabwatan sa mga korporasyong ito.
Kalokohang sabihin na ang operasyon na Open Pit Mining sa Rapu-Rapu, Albay (Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project ng Lafayette/LG-Kollins) at sa Aroroy, Masbate (Masbate Gold Project ng Filminera Resources Corporation) ay responsable! Mayroon bang pagpapasabog (blasting) ng kabundukan at kalupaan na “safe and environmental friendly”? Samantalang winawasak nga at hinuhukay pailalim.
Hindi rin responsable ang Magnetite Offshore Mining ng Bogo Mining Resources Corp. sa limang bayan ng Calabanga, Sipocot, Tinambac, Cabusao at Siruma sa Camarines Sur kung saan hahalukayin ang kailaliman ng karagatan 15 kilometro mula sa baybayin nito.
Hindi kailanman naging responsable ang mga dayuhang korporasyon ng pagmimina sa mga naapektuhan ng kanilang mga operasyon. Simula ng operasyon ng RRPP sa Rapu-Rapu ay lalong lumala ang kahirapan at nagkagutom-gutom ang mga residente dito dahil sa pagbagsak ng kanilang kabuhayan sa pangingisda at pagsasaka dulot ng mga lason ng pagmimina dito. Kung mayroong nakinabang sa binayad ng RRPP na P10,862.85 (mine waste fee) para sa 217,257 tonelada na “mine waste” ay ang MGB-V. (mula sa ulat ng MGB-V,2010). Sampung libong piso! Katumbas ba ito ng isang buhay ng nanay na namatay dahil nakakain ng isda dahil sa fishkill doon o ng isang batang namatay doon dahil sa kagutuman?
Apektado na nga ang mga residente sa pagmimina sa Barangay Nakalaya, Jose Panganiban sa Camarines Norte ay naiipit pa sila ngayon sa kaguluhan at away ng Investwell Corporation at ng FMCGI ng pamilyang Fonacier na nag-aagawan ng yamang mineral ng kanilang lugar.
Kasinungalingang ipamaglaki pa sa ulat ng DENR-V/MGB-V na ang malakihang pagmimina sa Kabikolan ang nagpasigla ng ekonomiya ng rehiyon samantalang ayon sa ulat ay nasa ikalawa sa pinakamahirap na rehiyon ang Bikol sa buong bansa. Kung sinasabi na umunlad ang ekonomiya ng Bikol dahil sa malakihang pagmimina – hindi ito maramdaman ng mga mamamayang Bikolano lalo na ng mga apektado ng mapaminsala at dayuhang pagmimina.
Tanging ang mga malalaki at dayuhang korporasyon sa pagmimina kasama ng mga malalaking lokal na negosyante at mga matataas na opisyales ng gobyerno at ahensya na nakikipagsabwatan sa mga korporasyong ito ang nakikinabang sa mga produkto at kita ng pagmimina dito sa Bikol. Sa ulat ng MBG-V/DENR-V noong 2010, sa kabuuan ay may P4,654,818,424.31 at P57,483,032.45 na kita mula sa “metallic ” at “non-metallic production”dito sa Bikol ayon sa pagkasunod-sunod ngunit hindi naman inulat ang mga dambuhala at limpak na limpak na kita ng mga korporasyon na maluwag na inilalabas patungo sa kanilang bansa. Maluwag nang nailalabas ang kita, maluwag pa ang kanilang operasyon dahil sa mga iba’t-ibang insentibo tulad ng: 6 years income tax exemption, 10 years export tax exemption, and import tax exemption at marami pang iba.
Kaya nga parang parang kabuteng nagsulputan ang mga ito sa Bikol dahil sa pagiging sagana ng rehiyon sa yamang mineral at prayoridad pa ng nakaraang gobyerno ni GMA ito para sa malakihang proyektong pagmimina na ipinagpapatuloy lamang ng gobyerno ni Noynoy Aquino at pinasahol pa sa ilalim ng kanyang Public-Private Partnership Program. Gayundin, patuloy ang pag-iral ng Mining Act of 1995 kung saan ay lalong nagbuyangyang sa ating likas na yaman para dambungin at wasakin ang ating kalikasan.
“Towards Responsible Mining: Against All Odds” ? - Ang responsableng pagmimina ay mangyayari lamang sa ating bansa kung magkakaroon ng re-oryentasyon ang industriya ng pagmimina sa ating bansa. Kung saan, ang kita ng industriya ng pagmimina ay napapakinabangan at napapaunlad ang mamamayang Pilipino at hindi napupunta sa dayuhan at sa mga lokal na kasabwat nito. Kung saan, ang gobyerno ang may kontrol ng industriya at hindi ang mga dayuhan.
Hindi dayuhang pagmimina at malawakang kumbersyon ng lupa ang magpapaunlad sa Kabikolan. Hindi ito ang sagot sa kahirapan at kagutuman ng mamamayang Bikolano. Pagpapaunlad ng agrikultura, trabaho at sapat na sahod, tirahan, libreng serbisyo-sosyal ang tutugon sa kahirapan at kagutuman upang mabuhay ng maayos at marangal ang mamamayang Bikolano. Tunay na Reporma sa Lupa at Pambansang Industriyalisasyon lamang ang magpapaunlad sa bansa at rehiyon.
Hulyo 13, 2011
A Word of Caution
Matthew 7:16 - You will know them by what they do. Thorn bushes do not bear grapes, and briers do not bear figs.
Matthew 7:20 - So then, you will know the false prophets by what they do.
The creeks are crucial to the condition of fishing grounds
The joke is that there will no longer be any fishkill - because there are no more fish to kill.
The fish that allegedly died off the coasts of Linao and Binosawan during the fishkill reported by island residents and the parish on May 8, 2011 could be the migratory species from the Pacific Ocean attempting to enter Albay Gulf via the gap between Rapu-Rapu and Prieto Diaz. Linao is a village facing the ocean and Binosawan, the gap.
The MGB V Photographs and "Bathing" in the Creeks of Rapu-Rapu
"With reference to your challenge to take a bath in the creeks, we have done just that. some members of the MMT and personnel of Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project (RRPP) went to a picnic and took a bath at Pagcolbon Creek on March 29 and April 3, 2011. We are attaching pictures for your reference. These pictures indicate the current status of the creeks."
In reply, Mr. Perdigon writes:
The good Director says he believes the contamination data but he is not among those “bathing.” Someone is shown sitting on the rocks (obviously not bathing) but the face is not recognizable (number 10).
Then and Now: What Difference? What Improvement in the Creeks?
Below, we are presenting ALL pictures in the Annex to the EMB V Investigation Report dated March 8-10, 2011. Those on the left are the pictures we have been showing to authorities which were taken from 2006 to 2009; those on the right are alleged to have been taken in the same spots on March 8 to 10, 2011 by EMB V and the mining companies. You be the judge if there is any improvement.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Wednesday, 26 August 2009
I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, including the many altar servers, school pupils and choristers.
The summer holidays have given us all the opportunity to thank God for the precious gift of creation. Taking up this theme, I wish to reflect today upon the relationship between the Creator and ourselves as guardians of his creation. In so doing I also wish to offer my support to leaders of governments and international agencies who soon will meet at the United Nations to discuss the urgent issue of climate change.
The Earth is indeed a precious gift of the Creator who, in designing its intrinsic order, has given us guidelines that assist us as stewards of his creation. Precisely from within this framework, the Church considers that matters concerning the environment and its protection are intimately linked with integral human development.... In my recent encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, I referred to such questions recalling the “pressing moral need for renewed solidarity” (no. 49) not only between countries but also between individuals, since the natural environment is given by God to everyone, and so our use of it entails a personal responsibility towards humanity as a whole, particularly towards the poor and towards future generations (cf. no. 48).
How important it is then, that the international community and individual governments send the right signals to their citizens and succeed in countering harmful ways of treating the environment! The economic and social costs of using up shared resources must be recognized with transparency and borne by those who incur them, and not by other peoples or future generations. The protection of the environment, and the safeguarding of resources and of the climate, oblige all leaders to act jointly, respecting the law and promoting solidarity with the weakest regions of the world (cf. no. 50). Together we can build an integral human development beneficial for all peoples, present and future, a development inspired by the values of charity in truth. For this to happen it is essential that the current model of global development be transformed through a greater, and shared, acceptance of responsibility for creation: this is demanded not only by environmental factors, but also by the scandal of hunger and human misery (boldfacing supplied).
With these sentiments I wish to encourage all the participants in the United Nations summit to enter into their discussions constructively and with generous courage. Indeed, we are all called to exercise responsible stewardship of creation, to use resources in such a way that every individual and community can live with dignity, and to develop “that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God” (Message for the 2008 World Day of Peace, 7)!
Friday, November 6, 2009
The change of name, however, is superficial. There is official paper trail on the continuity of the juridical personality of Lafayette. The change of name is not occasioned by any change of heart of the very same persons still working for the companies.
The second hearing
Present during the second hearing were Lafayette officials and staff: Engr. Rogelio E. Corpus, Mrs. Cecille A. Calleja, Engr. Carmelita Borbe Pacis. From the DENR attendees included Dr. Eva Ocfemia of EMB, Engr. Buenaventura S. Dayao and Engr. Guillermo Molina of MGB, and Engr. Rodolfo Matusalem of PENRO. Kinatawans Julio Tingzon, Osty Calleja and Neil Montallana were present. I represented Save Rapu-Rapu Alliance as its Spokesperson and Aquinas University of Legazpi as its Secretary-General. On query of Kinatawan Montallana, I said that I was also there as a taxpayer.
Engr. Corpus introduced Engr. Pacis who presented “what happened in the past which everybody knows and therefore needs no further elaboration,” Lafayette’s AMD management and dam design. The latter also insisted that what happened in 2005 were not fishkills “as in tons and tons of dead fish; only two kilos of small fish died.”
No admission of guilt; no repentance
Engr. Pacis vehemently denied the fishkills, official documents submitted to the national environment agency notwithstanding. Those documents subpoenaed by the Rapu-Rapu fact-Finding Commission state that Lafayette privately admitted guilt for the October 2005 spills. In public pronouncements, the same personnel deny Lafayette responsibility. They do not call it a fishkill on account of only “2 kilos” of dead fish recovered. Mrs. Nida Bendal attests that she herself collected two sacks of dead fish along the shores of Binosawan. That does not include the dead fish that could not be collected far out into the sea and those that have sunk to the sea floor. The fishkill of 2006 is also denied by Lafayette in spite of the narrative on Pages 15 and 16 of the TWG report on the test runs of 2006 titled “Evaluation of the Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project Under the Test Run Conditions.” They also deny the fishkills in October 2007 despite overwhelming documentation and testimonies of the residents of Rapu-Rapu.
This is the root of Lafayette’s failure to gain social acceptability. It cannot face its own ghosts. It would rather have a change of mask than a change of heart.
Impossibility of managing AMD in a small island
The first reason for objection to Lafayette mining in Rapu-Rapu is the presence of sulfide and pyrite rocks which are sources of acid mine drainage. Lafayette is adamant in refusing to admit that AMD cannot be managed in the small island of Rapu-Rapu. What Engr. Pacis admitted is that they cannot give 100% guarantee. “But there are other controls,” she quickly added. If those controls are effective the creeks would show.
On October 20, I showed them the photographs of the creeks from the ponds and gabions to the beach all tarnished with yellow, red and orange colors. They have no reply to that evidence. Lafayette failed to present their photographs of the creeks emanating from the mine site and flowing to the sea, some 400 to 500 meters from the tailings pond.
To oppositors, the short distance of the tailings pond from the sea is a consequence of second reason for objection to mining operations: the island’s small size. To Engr. Pacis, the 400 to 500-meter distance is safe enough. She forgets the third reason for objecting to the mining operations: the steep slopes. With short distance and flat terrain, there might be hope of retarding the flow of poisoned water to the sea. However, with short distance and steep slopes, the AMD easily reaches the fishing grounds of the poor fishermen.
All they showed were dam design drawings and photographs of canals around the ponds in the process of construction plus AMD management schematics. A slide was shown with a caption saying that a wild duck was swimming in the pond but the photo was so dark no duck could be seen and Engr. Pacis had to appeal to her audience to believe that there was indeed a duck in her photo. It can be granted for argument’s sake that there was a duck. I could even concede an elephant was there. What her claim proves is that there are species indeed like the wild duck which are at risk because of the mining operations. Kinatawan Osty Calleja commented that there could be no wild duck because Lafayette itself admits that the pond is poisoned.
The Lafayette measure for controlling AMD at source is to drown the tailings under two (2) meters of water column (www.rapu-rapumining.com/?req=environment). For a while the dissolved oxygen, they say, would react with the sulfide and pyrite wastes and produce acid. When all dissolved oxygen is consumed in the reaction, production of acid will stop. So they say. This is open admission that there is indeed acid in the pond.
Moreover, this method overlooks a vital scientific fact related to the fourth reason for objection to mining operations in the island: heavy rainfall. When a drop of rain falls from some 30,000 feet, it grows larger and larger and catches oxygen in its path. Hence, when the raindrop reaches the tailings pond, there is a fresh supply of dissolved oxygen for the chemical reaction to continue. With continued deposition of tailings, the production of more and more acid is assured.
Lafayette tries to make us believe that even if acid production continues in the tailings pond, the dam will contain the pollution. It was designed and is being built by a third party – Marcelo Bolaño and Associates – to withstand “one in a thousand years of rain.” Who would not be brave enough to make this claim? Nobody lives for a thousand years and prove thereafter that Lafayette is wrong. Moreover, even if they are indeed proven wrong, they would be too dead to care about any prosecution.
No government agency assures the public that the dam will sustain heavy rains and earthquakes
According to Engr. Dayao, in reply to Kinatawan Montallana, no agency of the government can give any assurance that the dam can serve the function for which it was designed. Not DENR, not Lafayette but only Marcelo Bolaño and Associates will bear the responsibility for any failure of the dam. From this arises our first objection to the dam: Lafayette has cunningly freed itself from responsibility for dam failure.
The second objection to the dam is the mistake committed by Lafayette in supposing that certain materials were non-potentially acid forming (NAF). They were found during the test runs to be actually potentially acid forming (PAF). This is documented on Page 36 of the report of the Technical Working Group on the test run. This mistake, according to Dr. Carlito Barril, retired geochemistry professor of UP Los Baños, is enough reason to close the Lafayette mine.
The third objection to the dam is the very possible development of cracks and seepages. This is warned about by Engr. Macario Apin II during the test runs and documented in the TWG report (Page 9). Cracks and seepages can result from groundshaking due to blastings done at the open pit. Worse, they can result from earthquakes originating from two fault lines: San Miguel Fault running northwest-southeast some 10 kms north of the mine site; and the Legazpi Lineament also running northwest-southeast some 2 kms south. The dam and the mine site lie between these fault lines. Several earthquakes occurred in 2008 and 2009 with epicenters near Rapu-Rapu. The Earthquake Database of the US Geological Survey National Earthquake Information Center records seven (7) earthquakes from 1973 to 2007 with epicenters within 10 kms of the island.
AMD from settling and polishing ponds, exposed surfaces and waste rock dump
Sulfide and pyrite materials are not only in the tailings pond. They are also in the settling and polishing ponds which are allowed to flow to the wetland and then the sea. They are beneath the topsoil and when the latter is removed when mining is done, they are exposed to air and water to produce acid. The waste rock dump is also exposed to rainwater and air so acid will also come from it. Flowing with runoff water during heavy rains, this acid from exposed surfaces and waste rock dump reaches the sea.
The other contaminant in the Lafayette mine is silt from exposed surfaces. Sprinkling with water, as allegedly Lafayette is doing everyday, will not remove the threat. As I have computed, they would need 4500 cubic meters of water every day for that purpose. There is no source in Rapu-Rapu that will give them that much water. Engr. Pacis said that they source it from the ponds. This compounds the problem of water scarcity. Even the exposed surfaces will have heavy metal contaminants! Silt and heavy metals then will flow to the sea during rainy days.
Silt alone clogs gills of fish and corrals and kill them. It also kills the plankton that produces 50 to 70% of the earth’s oxygen supply by consuming carbon dioxide.
Any open pit exacerbates global warming. Trees and other forms of vegetation (which produce a net supply of oxygen) are removed to dig the open pit. The silt of waste from the open pit is carried by rainwater to the sea and kills the plankton.
Moreover, the Lafayette open pit is a violation of the 7th commandment on climate change adaptation proclaimed by the Provincial Government of Albay in October 2007. The use of open pits is renounced by Al Gore in “An Inconvenient Truth”
Heavy metals, bioaccumulation and biomagnification
Heavy metals uncovered by mining kill mangroves and cause diseases among humans. Mercury naturally occurs in Rapu-Rapu as testified to by the MGB through its Factsheet dated February 2, 2006. Its effect on human health needs no elaboration.
Statements from DENR and Lafayette trying to calm people through assurances that the level of heavy metal contamination is within “tolerable limits” is belied when bioaccumulation and biomagnification are established. Bioaccumulation is the increase in concentration of a pollutant from the environment to the first organism in a food chain. Biomagnification is the increase in concentration of a pollutant from one link in a food chain to another
The surroundings may be within the ‘tolerable limit” for heavy metal contamination but the persistent presence of the contaminants in the air, water, sediments or even organisms plus the successive consumption through the food chain will increase their concentration in higher-order consumers like humans.
Excretion of mercury may be faster among lactating females because the contaminant goes out with the milk only to be sucked by the baby!
Heavy metals may be excreted but only to return to the environment and from there they will again be consumed by plants and animals which will then be consumed by humans. So heavy metals will keep on circulating in the environment and human body whereas they used to be covered by topsoil until unearthed by mining operations.
To all these rebuttals, the Lafayette representatives could only nod their heads.
Given all these information about Lafayette AMD management and its dam, one can easily understand why acid, silt and heavy metals flow to the sea. The final proof of this is the severely diminished fish catch in Albay Gulf. Engr. Pacis herself admitted during the November 3 hearing that they could see corrals but not fish. She adds, “as to the reason, we do not know.” The fishermen report the decline to have started in 2005, the very year Lafayette began full operations. Also, the RRMI advertisement over Home Radio in Legazpi City admits severe fish catch decline but blames it on the cutting of mangroves by the residents themselves. As we have rebutted, the island residents have not cut the mangroves in the scale that Lafayette wants the world to believe; they have made sustainable use of them for decades but no decline in fish catch happened until 2005 when Lafayette mining went full blast. The death of mangroves is caused by heavy metal contamination as two scientific studies show*. In Rapu-Rapu the mining operations have unleashed heavy metals that used to be buried under the topsoil.
(* http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=1992824; http://marine-habitats.suite101.com/article.cfm/mangrove_deforestation_affects_coral_reefs)
In brief, three indicators show how ineffective Lafayette’s environmental management is: (1) the yellow, red, orange and brown coloration of the creeks as evidence of contamination that flows to the sea; (2) severe decline in fish catch in Albay Gulf since 2005; and (3) growing poverty and increasing incidents of disease in the island.
Up to this time, Lafayette executives do not accept the challenge which I gave on October 20, 2009 and repeated in front of them on November 3, 2009 for them to bathe in the mouth of the creeks or eat fish if any is caught in the area. This is further proof that they themselves are not convinced that their operations are clean.
The Lafayette representatives also cited their aesthetic standards for the mine site. In reply, we say that the mine site may look very beautiful but it does not take away the danger that lurks there. Something may be beautiful outside but deep inside it can be very dangerous.
Mrs. Calleja asked to be given the floor while I prepared my laptop for the presentation. She claimed that while RRPI is 100% foreign-owned, RRMI is 60% Filipino-owned as mandated by law. Disputing the claim, I showed to the committee the corporate structure during the time of the Australians. In the diagram, RRMI’s Filipino shares are 60% of 60% and hence 36% only. She replied that it was the old structure. In reply, I showed the new diagram taken from the 2008 Annual Report of MSC. There, the percentages of ownership are the same. The only change was in the replacement of Lafayette Mining Ltd by the Kores-LGI-MSC group. F&N Holdings, Inc. is replaced by JV Calleja Group. Everything else, specially the percentages of shares held, is the same. Mrs. Calleja said that the report is for 2008 and, she implied, is therefore old. This is not a valid argument because the 2008 report of MSC is the latest. Even if corrections were made in 2009, still Lafayette has to account for those years when they did not comply with the 60% Filipino ownership requirement. It is already sad that our surroundings are messed up by Lafayette’s operations. It is more unfortunate that our own laws are being used to minimize the taxes they pay and gotten around with to our disadvantage.
Certification from ISO and recognition from PCAPI
Lafayette again brought up their ISO Certification 14001 and added the recognition from the Pollution Control Adjudicators of the Philippines, Inc. Our reply to these is simple:
These certification and recognition do not address the island’s small size, steep slopes, heavy rainfall, sulfide and pyrite rocks that produce acid, and use of cyanide which by experience has been shown to be prone to spills that killed fish and plankton. The certification and recognition do not absolve Lafayette from the confirmed fishkills on October 11 and 31, 2005; July 20, 2006; first week of October 2007; and October 26-29, 2007.
The certification and recognition do not address the use of the open pit technology which removes the topsoil and renders the land unarable for decades and reduces the population of plants that also consume carbon dioxide.
The certification and recognition do not address the PEZA exemption of Lafayette from taxes on income earned from production of precious and base metals.
We should also note that the certification and recognition do not solve the fishermen’s problem of diminished catch in fishing grounds near the island and their need to go far out into the Pacific Ocean facing gigantic waves using tiny boats just to pursue their livelihood.
We should also note that the certification and recognition do not cure the diseases related to heavy metal contamination suffered by residents of Rapu-Rapu and coastal towns of Sorsogon.
The ISO Certification is only for the needs of Lafayette. It is never for us.
Lafayette mining and Rapu-Rapu’s poverty
The situation in Rapu-Rapu Island is desperate, according to a group of environmentalists who conducted an ocular and immersion activity on May 11-13 in the island. Hunger, disease and ecological disasters are unabated and continue to worsen day by day. It demands the attention of local and national authorities.
Talking to residents of Carugcog, Tinopan, Buenavista, Viga and other villages, the ISM participants, according to Dr. Geneve Rivera of Health Alliance for Democracy, learned that children die of diarrhea and vomiting for lack of medical services. Respiratory problems are common. These cases, they confirm, never happened with the same frequency in the past as after the start of mining operations.
Fish is scarce in the waters offshore. Even “tagunason,” an edible marine organism that used to be abundant on the shorelines during low tide, is gone. They cannot bathe in the beaches because they experience skin itch and rashes. Mrs. Jeanny Balbin cries as she recounts how her three children almost died after eating shellfish.
The creeks are yellowish-red, an indication of acid mine drainage, and no longer host freshwater fish. The dap-dap trees along the banks are dead. Corrals still stand but are pale and likewise dead, according to Mr. Clemente Baustista of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment. No fish can be seen around them. The residents estimate that 50% of the corrals near Buenavista are dead. This explains the observation that fish catch is down from 20 kilograms per outing to almost zero. The blue marlin used to be abundant in April and May and 20 could be caught in years past. This year, only 6 have been caught. For the entire island, fish catch decline is estimated at 80-90% since the mine started to operate, according to PAMALAKAYA national chair Mr. Fernando Hicap.There is severe scarcity of drinking water.
On August 21-23, 2009, Pangataman-Bikol, an environmental NGO, sent a relief mission to Mananao, Linao and Tinopan. The team saw extreme poverty. The near-zero fish catch was confirmed. They saw an old woman who earns her living by making hard brooms from coconut midribs. She makes four a day and sells each for P15. Her fingers have suffered cuts from the effort. But even her humble livelihood is under threat because the mining companies cut coconut trees (without permit according to the PCA in Legazpi) and are bent on expanding the mining area.
With the information on Page 21 of the 2008 MSC Annual Report that 5,218 hec is the mine area, 93.36% of the island, up from the previously known 82.5%, is under threat of destruction.
As in colonial times, foreigners are unbridled in their exploitation of our natural resources, leaving Filipinos destitute and robbed of their chance to rise from poverty. In the past, we had the Blood Compact. Today we have the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement and Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement. In the past we had the Encomienda System. Today we have the Mining Industry Liberalization Policy.
ang lahi ni Legaspi ay ating binubuhay sa lubos na kasaganaan, ating pinagtatamasa at binubusog, kahit abutin natin ang kasalatan at kadayukdukan
- Andres Bonifacio
“Ang Dapat Mabatid ng mga Tagalog”
Based on the monitoring of anti-mining liberalization alliance Defend Patrimony, there are already eight Provincial Governments that have declared moratorium on large-scale mining: Capiz, Western Samar, Northern Samar, Samar, Marinduque, Mindoro Oriental, North Cotabato and Palawan (http://www.sunstar.com.ph/davao/lgus-urged-follow-palawans-ban-mining). In addition, Nueva Vizcaya, Puerto Princesa City (https://www.yehey.com/news/Article.aspx?id=177393), Sitio Taocanga (Brgy Calinawan, Manay, Davao Oriental) followed suit.
Albay can do the same.
In closing, I declared during the committee hearing:
For a very long time after Lafayette is done mining in Rapu-Rapu the tailings deposit and contamination will hang like the sword of Damocles over the residents of the island. Throughout that period of thirty or more years, the land will yield no fruit and the sea, no fish. Future generations will ask: What did we do in our time to prevent it?
On our part we will continue to call for mine closure and document everything. The day will come when the history of Albay is read by our grandchildren, the names of those accountable will be forever condemned.
The personnel of Lafayette (yes I insist on calling that entity Lafayette) are unrepentant for all the environmental destruction and economic injustice they have inflicted on Rapu-Rapu. In due time, we believe, justice will be served.
November 3, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
The representative from BIR Legazpi confirmed the claims of tax payments. She said that when RRMI became a big tax payer in 2008, the money then went to BIR national office. She pleaded to the SPA to support the effort of BIR Legazpi to have the payments made in the local revenue office. She was concerned about the tax collection performance of her office but not with the availment of tax windfall by the people of Rapu-Rapu. (Please read SARA response to claims about tax payments.)
A representative from the Philippine Economic Zone Authority confirmed the tax exemption privileges of Rapu-Rapu Processing, Inc. for four (4) years.
As SARA Spokesperson, I presented the video “Rapu-Rapu” made by Bikol Express showing the suffering of the people of Rapu-Rapu due to the previous fishkills and ongoing decline in fish catch. I also showed them the complex corporate structure relating RRMI, RRPI, LPI, Kores, LGI, MSC, Ungay-Malobago, Inc, and JV Calleja Group. I emphasized that the diagram was reliable because it came from the Annual Report of MSC in 2008. It was important to clarify the corporate structure because the RRMI representatives tried so hard to make the audience believe that they are not “Lafayette.” I asserted that they are still “Lafayette” as technically manifested by the continued ownership of the mine by “Lafayette Philippines, Inc.” Towards the close of the presentations, Mrs. Calleja insisted that they are not “Lafayette” anymore. Instead, they are “Korea Malaysia Philippines or KMP.” With the same people who were in “Lafayette”, this alleged “KMP” is a mere new name for the same juridical entity. If Satan is called Lucifer, he is the same devil.
The presentations of RRMI sounded like the SONA of President Gloria M. Arroyo. So much is claimed on paper but virtually nothing is seen on the ground. Notably the alleged accomplishments are mostly for the three "direct impact barangays" even as the damage of mining operations is felt as far as Barangay Mananao in the north; Rawis, Legazpi City in the west; and Prieto Diaz, Sorsogon in the south. While the island residents are in pain back in Rapu-Rapu, RRMI representatives were joyous in the session hall of the SPA. This, I believe, is the typical attitude of the Lafayette people. They refuse to see the issue from the viewpoint of the masses. They can afford to exhibit mirth while the people of Rapu-Rapu, as shown in the video “Rapu-Rapu” by Bikol Express, are weeping over the loss of their livelihood and patrimony.
Virgilio S. Perdigon, Jr.
1. The environmental damage is much more than the benefits from alleged taxes. The current and future benefits from farming and fishing will be almost totally wiped out. The alleged taxes are in the millions; farming and fishing benefits are beyond quantification, being the source of sustenance for all generations of island residents.
2. There is no verification of actual payment. Government agencies and mining companies have been accused of collusion and cover-up.
3. There is no independent validation of income declared by RRMI; hence, there is no certainty that the amounts allegedly paid as taxes are correct.
4. The alleged taxes are from RRMI only. RRPI enjoys exemptions as PEZA privileges. This could be the reason for the separation of the two companies. RRPI is 100% foreign-owned; RRMI is 64% foreign-owned. The claim is that the privileges are for four (4) years. The PEZA law stipulates six (6) years which can be extended to eight (8) years (Special Economic Zone Act of 1995 Rule XV Section 6). It is not surprising then that the mine life is set at eight (8) years.
5. The local BIR office wants the taxes to be paid to them instead of BIR national office to improve the former’s tax collection performance. They did not express desire to ensure that the benefits accrue to the residents of the island.
6. There are discrepancies between taxes alleged by RRMI and those reported by MGB.
7. There is no visible benefit for the residents of the island in terms of roads, bridges, health services, and other projects and programs. For example, it still takes 7 hours for residents of Tinopan and Binosawan to carry on their backs the farm produce to Poblacion.
In the light of these considerations, the Save Rapu-Rapu Alliance refutes the alleged payment of taxes as justification for the continued operation of the mine. We maintain our stand that the mine should be closed, and that the mining companies clean up the contaminated areas, pay for the damages, and leave the island. We also reiterate our call for the implementation of alternative options for the development of Rapu-Rapu such as land distribution, farm subsidies, potable water system, decent housing, fast transportation, environment-friendly roads, power generation, and preservation of the island’s ecosystem.
Save Rapu-Rapu Alliance
October 20, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
There are several companies involved in the mining operations: Lafayette Philippines Inc. (LPI) which owns Rapu-Rapu Minerals, Inc. and Rapu-Rapu Processing, Inc.; Korea Resources Corporation (Kores); LG International Corporation; Malaysia Smelting Corporation which own LPI; and Rapu-Rapu Holdings, Inc.; JV Calleja Group; Ungay-Malobago Mines, Inc.; and Toronto Ventures, Inc. which have minor stakes in the mine. They are related in a complex arrangement but a graphical depiction on the right side of this page would help the reader understand.
In view of the unrepentant attitude of the mining companies, the Save Rapu-Rapu Alliance launched a non-violent protest action plan. The first stage is the call for boycott of LG products – refrigerators, washing machines, cellphones, flat screens, airconditioners, etc. LG has retail outlets in the local economy. With the vital participation of our friends in other countries, the impact would be multiplied.
Through this non-violent protest action, we will make LG feel how it is to lose one’s income. An estimated 14,000 fishermen and their dependents have already lost theirs, from 60 to 93 %, according to a study by Ibon Foundation.
Should the mining companies not close the Rapu-Rapu mine, in 2010 we will expand our boycott call to cover other Korean products because Korea Resources Corporation is owned by the South Korean government which has turned a deaf ear to the plight of the island residents. Our fathers and grandfathers shed their blood in the Korean War to defend their freedom in the 1950’s. Today, a large number of their children and grandchildren are being oppressed by South Koreans through Kores and LG. What ingratitude!
So, to our friends the world over, we are seeking help. The suffering of the people of Rapu-Rapu island should not last any longer. Please come to their aid. Boycott LG products!
Save Rapu-Rapu Alliance
Thursday, October 1, 2009
MALAYSIA Smelting Corp Bhd (MSC) said it will sell its 30 per cent stake in the Rapu Rapu polymetallic project in Philippines which it bought on April 17 last year.
This is another non-tin asset that MSC is planning to sell apart from the recent proposed divestment of a 22.1 per cent stake in Australia 's gold mining company Beaconsfield Gold NL.
MSC told Bursa Malaysia the sale is in line with the company's focus to reduce cost and debt.
"The company has also decided not to proceed with the proposed bonus and rights issues in view of its decision to divest some of the group's non-tin assets," it said.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
In Forcus - coastal resource protection and conservation presented to you by Rapu-Rapu Minerals, Inc. The destruction of mangroves or bakawan forests are (sic) one of the major reasons for the declining fish catch in the municipality of Rapu-Rapu. More than 80% of mangrove forests have been cut down for firewood, charcoal, fish farming and residential settlements. In Focus – coastal resource protection and conservation presented to you by Rapu-Rapu Minerals Inc. Best practices are our guiding principle.
This adds insult to injury. This is not so different from the “Lollipop Affair” when a certain Joey Cubias said something to this effect:
The people of Rapu-Rapu cannot be satisfied with just one lollipop. They demand ten.
The mining company apologized to the local government of Rapu-Rapu and booted Cubias. The release of the advertisement on the decline in fish catch exposes the hypocrisy of the “new management” of the mine. After apologizing for the Cubias faux pas, they trample upon the dignity of the residents anew by blaming them for the loss of their livelihood – fishing.
The apologists of Lafayette mining have been groping for a convincing defense against the charge that contamination of the seawater around Rapu-Rapu is the actual cause of fish catch decline. First, they blamed the phenomenon on climate change. This was thwarted with the argument that open pit mining aggravates climate change. If climate change caused fish catch decline, then by transitivity, the mining operation caused the drastic fish catch decline! This reasoning is as simple as the logism that if A caused B and B caused C, then A caused C.
Second, the apologists of Lafayette mining blamed the decline in fish catch on illegal fishing. To this we have responded. There has been illegal fishing in the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. But no decline in fish catch happened. Moreover, the damage done by illegal fishing can easily be repaired by the natural process of fish rebreeding in one or two seasons. Today, the Bantay Dagat operatives (Sea Guards) have been patrolling Albay Gulf so that illegal fishing has been reduced. Since natural rebreeding can restore the fish population in a few seasons, how can illegal fishing be blamed for the drastic decline in fish catch? One fact is obvious but it seems Lafayette cannot see it: the rapid decline in fish catch started in 2005. That was also the year mining operations went full blast.
Third, the apologists of Lafayette mining blamed trawl fishing. In response, the fishermen themselves testify that trawl fishing cannot be done in Albay Gulf because the net would get entangled in the corrals and rocks. They themselves do not see any trawl ships entering Albay Gulf. They see them in the Pacific Ocean. Out there where trawls ply, the fish are abundant but the boats of Rapu-Rapu fishermen are too small for the big waves.
The fourth alibi of the apologists of Lafayette mining, namely the destruction of mangroves by the residents of the island, is also easily debunked by two scientific studies:
(1) M. W. Yim and N. F. Y. Tam; Department of Biology and Chemistry, City University of Hong Kong, Tat Chee Avenue, Kowloon, Hong Kong, People's Republic of China
Effects of wastewater-borne heavy metals on growth of young plants (9-month-old Bruguiera gymnorrhiza) and soil microbial activities in mangrove microcosms were evaluated. During the 26-week loading period, each mangrove microcosm received 31.2 litres synthetic wastewater of three strengths: normal, medium (5 times of normal strength) and strong (10 times of normal strength). Normal strength wastewater had Cu, Zn, Cd, Cr and Ni concentrations of 3, 5, 0.2, 2 and 3 mg l−1, respectively. Plant growth and total plant biomass in wastewater-treated microcosms were lower than that in the control, and the maximum reduction was found in microcosms receiving strong wastewater. Alkaline phosphatase activity and ATP contents of the mangrove soils receiving wastewater were also reduced. More than 95% reduction in these two parameters was found in soils loaded with strong wastewater. Microtox test demonstrated that soil elutriates obtained from microcosms receiving strong wastewater were of the greatest toxicity (EC50 was 23%). These results show that high concentrations of heavy metals present in strong wastewater were toxic and posed negative effects to both mangrove plants and soil microbial activities. Microbial activities were generally more sensitive to the toxicity of heavy metals than plants. (boldface and italics supplied)
(2) Megan Jugwi; Mangrove Deforestation Affects Coral Reefs; Aug 10, 2009
Although the leggy trees of a mangrove forest seem to have little in common with the clear blue waters of a colorful coral reef, these two ecosystems are closely connected to each other. Mangrove deforestation not only means loss of habitat for mangrove wildlife such as mudskippers, birds, and deer. Mangrove deforestation also affects coral reefs and this wider impact must be understood.
The Extent of Mangrove Deforestation
Twenty percent of the world’s mangrove forests have been lost since 1980, says the January 2008 report “Loss of mangroves alarming” from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO). The report goes on to say that mangrove deforestation is mostly due to shrimp and fish farming, agriculture, pollution, and tourism. Mangroves provide many ecosystem services including protecting the shore from erosion, providing wood and food to humans, and are a home to a wide range of animals.
Where Mangroves and Corals Interact
Mangrove forests and coral reefs do not always occur near each other. However, these two ecosystems are neighbors often enough that important biological and physical interactions have been observed. Places as disparate as Indonesia, Australia, and the Caribbean have mangrove coastlines not far from coral reefs. The placement of mangroves, coral reefs, and the sometimes-intermediary sea grass beds can be seen in the United Nations Environmental Program’s maps “Global Distribution of Coral, Mangrove, and Seagrass Diversity” at the UNEP/GRID-Arendal Site.
Mangroves Home to Baby Reef Fish
The loss of mangrove forests affect reef fish in a very direct way reports John Roach in the February 2004 National Geographic article “Mangroves Are Nurseries for Reef Fish, Study Finds”. Researchers found that coral reefs near mangroves had twice as many fish as those far from mangrove forests. Many fish are born in seagrass beds and live there until they are too big to hide from predators. They then move on to mangroves to grow a bit more before moving on to reefs. In areas without mangroves, the fish move to the reefs when they are smaller and are easier prey for predators. Mangroves are thus important to healthy, abundant reef communities.
Mangrove Loss Leads to Polluted Coral Reefs
The roots of mangrove trees do an important job of keeping the coastline’s soil intact and out of the ocean. Unfortunately, the loss of mangrove forests can lead to silt traveling out to sea. The eroding coastline is bad for land inhabitants, but it also leads to the siltation of coral reefs. This often means death for corals that are smothered by soil. As the FAO notes in its article, mangroves are important in protecting corals from erosion.
The first study says: Copper, zinc, cadmium and nickel contamination severely reduced the growth of mangroves. High concentrations of heavy metals present in strong wastewater were toxic and posed negative effects to both mangrove plants and soil microbial activities.
In Rapu-Rapu, UP NSRI study identified the first three elements (Cu, Zn and Cd) as among the contaminants. We repeat: one fact is obvious but it seems Lafayette cannot see it: the rapid decline in fish catch started in 2005. That was also the year mining operations went full blast.
The residents of the island are not responsible for the release of heavy metals to the seawater around the island. The mining operators did that as proven in 2005, 2006 and 2007 fishkills. If no fishkill occurred in 2008 and 2009 that is due to the fact that there are no more fish to kill.
The second study says: Mangroves and coral reefs are interrelated.
The FAO report says: Mangrove deforestation is mostly due to shrimp and fish farming, agriculture, pollution, and tourism. Mangroves provide many ecosystem services including protecting the shore from erosion, providing wood and food to humans, and are a home to a wide range of animals.
The FAO itself acknowledges the legitimacy of tapping mangroves as source of fuel and food for humans. What is not legitimate is the mining of an island with a fragile ecosystem. The people of Rapu-Rapu have all the right to do these economic activities in their island and they have done them sustainably. RRMI, RRPI, RRPP, LPI, Kores, LGI, MSC and their host of apologists are intruders backed solely by the fiat of Malacañang. The radio advertisement blaming the destruction of mangroves on the people of Rapu-Rapu has neither scientific nor moral basis.
We do not see any shrimp and fish farming around Rapu-Rapu! Bicol University attempted a seaweed culture project there but the seaweed did not grow as attested to by Dr. Nimfa Pelea during the meeting of PATLEPAM on October 3, 2008. Agriculture in Rapu-Rapu is down because of the encroachment of the open pit on their farmlands and diversion of irrigation water from the farms to the mine site. Recall that the Secretary of the Rapu-Rapu Sangguniang Bayan, Mr. Allan Asuncion, wrote a letter to Engr. Rogelio E. Corpus (then LPI General Manager for Operations and currently RRMI Senior Vice-President for Mine Operations) dated September 12, 2007 to convey the complaint of the Pagcolbon Barangay Captain about the “drought and scarcity or total absence of potable water supply” in his barangay. No reply was reported.
There is no significant tourism industry to speak of in Rapu-Rapu. What is glaring in that island is pollution. The release of naturally occurring mercury; the contamination with copper, zinc, cadmium, lead and arsenic; and the scattering of silt have polluted the seawater around Rapu-Rapu. This is the only cause of the destruction of the mangroves and the corals. This is the result of Lafayette mining.
Lafayette must own up to its culpability for the environmental damage in Rapu-Rapu and to the economic injustice inflicted on the people. They should stop citing unscientific alibis. As the captain of the Greenpeace ship Esperanza told them: They should pack up, clean up, pay up and take off.
RRMI, RRPI, RRPP, LPI, Kores, LGI, MSC and their host of apologists should stop thinking that the people of Rapu-Rapu and the Bicol Region can be deceived by their lies! If the decline in fish catch is due to the destruction of mangroves by residents of the island and not to pollution, then we challenge all executives of RRMI, RRPI, RRPP, LPI, Kores, LGI, MSC and their host of apologists to swim for one hour every weekend in the mouths of the creeks where they discharge wastewater and eat fish if they can catch any. If they can do that then their radio advertisement can be believed. If they cannot, then it is “baseless, speculative and in no way supported by facts or evidence” to quote Engr. Corpus in his statement to the Business Mirror on June 9, 2009.
Save Rapu-Rapu Alliance
September 15, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Fact 1: On August 31, 2009 a man known as “Sawa” (pronounced /sah-HWA/) or “Python” was reported as having been pursued by the Philippine National Police Maritime Command for illegal fishing. He eluded the police by escaping upland to the barangay of Morocborocan but his equipment were confiscated. The report said his group was using a compressor. The fish they caught was 30 kgs.
Fact 2: A certain “Sawa” is known in Rapu-Rapu as a resident of sitio (a sub-unit of a village) Acal in the barangay (village) of Manano. He is also a member of the village council. The same person is known in the island as a pro-mining barangay kagawad (councilor).
Fact 3: The mining company that operates in Rapu-Rapu has completed its exploration of the Mananao area.
Fact 4: The mining company has been arguing that the decline in fish catch around the waters of Rapu-Rapu is due to illegal fishing.
Fact 5: Illegal fishing was rampant in the past decades but the fish catch never declined. Today, with Bantay Dagat (Sea Guards), illegal fishing is not as rampant.
Fact 6: The full scale operation of Lafayette Philippines, Inc. in Rapu-Rapu started in 2005. That was also the year when fish catch drastically declined.
Conclusion 1: From Facts 1 and 2 it can be concluded that the pro-mining kagawad is also an illegal fisher.
Conclusion 2: From Facts 2 and 3 it can be concluded that “Sawa” supports the mining operation being started in the Mananao area.
Conclusion 3: From Facts 3 and 4 it can be concluded that the mining company continues to dig for minerals in Rapu-Rapu because they do not acknowledge that the mining operation damages the fishing industry.
Conclusion 4: From the preceding it can be shown that miners and illegal fishers are in cahoots as they destroy the island and its surrounding waters.
Conclusion 5: From Facts 5 and 6 it can be concluded that the decline in fish catch cannot be attributed to illegal fishing but to the mining operation in Rapu-Rapu.
We, the Save Rapu-Rapu Alliance, oppose illegal fishing. We point out, nevertheless, that the impact of mining is many times more damaging. Hence, we insist that the mine should be closed!
Save Rapu-Rapu Alliance
September 2, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
Lately, Mr. Horacio Ramos of MGB has resorted to labeling in his defense of mining companies that go around in the guise of “responsible mining” and “sustainable development.” Failing to present facts about mining impact on Philippine environment, Mr. Ramos cites motherhoods and calls his critics “purists” as if by casting such word like a magic spell all oppositors would vanish with a wave of his wand. Allow us to respond to him and the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (CMP) point by point:
1. CMP: “The mining act has very stringent environmental protection measures and they have been complied with.”
We reply: The Mining Act became law in 1995. In 1996, the Marcopper mining disaster happened in Marinduque! The Mining Act of 1995 is favorable to mining companies and reads like it was written by them. If the Mining Act has very stringent provisions, then why are mining areas in such terrible shape? Rapu-Rapu, Aroroy, Larap, Marinduque, Mangkayan, etc are serious indictments of the “stringent” mining act.
2. CMP: “Even in the case of Rapu-Rapu, this was dealt with immediately . . . They have paid for their mistakes. Government and even civil society groups in the area monitor operations closely and do not confirm the disappearance of fish catch. This is hearsay.
We reply: These are the facts, not hearsay, about Rapu-Rapu mining. In Rapu-Rapu, five major fishkills have been noted. The Pollution Adjudication Board made Lafayette pay only for the October 2005 accidents. However, not a cent went to the people of the island. Rod Watt, the Australian manager during those spills was not penalized. He even received P16 million in salaries in 2006. The management team of Carlos Dominguez, taking over from the Australians, never improved the situation for the residents of the island. They earned over P 90 million during their stint. While Lafayette executives earn millions inside their airconditioned offices, the people of Rapu-Rapu are losing everything they need for present and future survival. The following data on their salaries are from the annual reports of Lafayette Mining Limited from 2001 to 2007 (the executives have varying periods of employment):
1. Antill, Mark, Asst. VP Mining; US$ 138,131.00; P 6,906,550.00; 1 year
2. Baker, David Lewis, Mng Dir and Chief Exec Offcr; US$ 1,197,884.00; P 55,433,075.00; 2 years
3. Benuik, VG, Asst. VP Metallurgy; US$ 115,714.00; P 5,785,700.00; 1 year
4. Campos, Marc A., Senior VP Prodn and Comrcl; US$ 179,276.00; P 8,159,970.00; 2 years
5. Culbert, Ian Edward, Executive Director; US$ 180,000.00; P 9,000,000.00; 1 year
6. Eckhof, Klaus Peter, Non-executive Director; US$ 21,600.00; P 1,080,000.00; 1 year
7. Geddes, Peter Jeffrey, Non-executive Director; US$ 30,000.00; P 1,500,000.00; 1 year
8. Gillard, Reginald Norman, Non-executive Chairman; US$ 360,759.00; P 17,731,385.00; 6 years
9. Hickman, Timothy James Bruce, Chief Financl Ofcr and Co Sec; US$ 784,008.00; P 39,200,400.00; 4 yrs
10. Mahony, David Ronayne, Executive Director/Non-ex Dir; US$ 768,837.00; P 38,441,850.00; 4 years
11. Marwood, Bradley WJ, Chief Operating Officer; US$ 177,840.00; P 8,892,000.00; 1 year
12. McIlwain, Andrew Ivor Bruce, Mng Dir and Chief Exec Offcr; US$ 1,950,138.00; P 97,506,900.00; 4 yrs
13. McMullen, Michael James, Technical Director; US$ 160,000.00; P 8,000,000.00; 1 year
14. Mitchell, James Scott, Non-executive Director; US$ 120,700.00; P 6,035,000.00; 3 years
15. Quartermaine, Jeffrey Allan, Chief Financl Ofcr and Co Sec; US$ 580,835.00; P 26,408,410.00; 2 years
16. Robinson, Kevin Peter, Non-executive Director; US$ 113,257.00; P 5,662,850.00; 3 years
17. Stevering, Michel GM, Group Finance Mgr/ Comp Sec; US$ 132,058.00; P 5,942,610.00; 1 year
18. Taylor, Paul Richard, Non-executive Director; US$ 50,582.00; P 2,529,100.00; 1 year
19. Thompson, AB, VP Operations; US$ 233,036.00; P 11,651,800.00; 1 year
20. Walker, Jurg, Non-executive Director; US$ 40,000.00; P 2,000,000.00; 2 years
21. Watt, Roderick, Country Manager – Philippines; US$ 915,172.00; P 45,758,600.00; 5 years
22. Widdup, Robin Anthony, Non-executive Director; US$ 46,250.00; P 2,150,000.00; 2 years
23. Wood, Steven C., Non-executive Director; US$ 12,630.00; P 568,350.00; 1 year
Total salaries = US$ 8,308,707.00 = P 406,344,550.00
We do not covet their money. In the first place, that money rightfully belongs to the people of Rapu-Rapu. We only lament that they have all the benefits while the people of Rapu-Rapu bear all the costs – environmental damage and loss of livelihood.
Civil society groups here from the academe, church, fisherfolks, NGOs, etc oppose the mine - Aquinas University of Legazpi, Ateneo de Naga University, Divine Word College of Legazpi, St. Agnes’ Academy, Social Action Center, Parish of Rapu-Rapu, Diocese of Legazpi, Diocese of Sorsogon, Archdiocese of Caceres, Diocese of Virac, Diocese of Libmanan, Diocese of Masbate, Diocese of Daet), the Governor of Albay, many city and municipal governments in Bicol, Save Rapu-Rapu Alliance, Pangataman Bikol, Sagip-Isla Sagip-Kapwa, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, Greenpeace, Oxfam Australia, Banktrack, Development and Peace of Canada, Center for Ecological Concerns Philippines, Health Alliance for Democracy, Community Medicine Development Foundation, Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas, Peace for Life, Philippine Collegian, Bulatlat, AGHAM, Redemptorist Baclaran, Takaki Citizen Science Foundation of Japan, Friends of the Earth Japan, BAYAN Bikol, KMP Bikol, Ugnayan ng mga Mamamayan Laban sa Pagmimina at Kombersyong Agraryo Camarines Norte, BAYAN Camarines Sur, PAMALAKAYA Masbate, KMU Bikol, ABAKA Catanduanes, KADAMAY Bikol, Camarines Sur People’s Organization, Bikol Express Multimedia, AMLDM, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, radio stations DZGB and DWBS, etc. All the seven bishops of Bicol oppose the mine as manifested in their letter to the Pope dated December 25, 2008, after all appeals for mine closure fell on deaf ears of local and national authorities.
The fisherman around Albay Gulf (including Rapu-Rapu) and the International Solidarity Mission on May 10-13, 2009 all confirm the rapid decline in fish catch which started in 2005, the same year when Lafayette began operation.
In October 2005, July 2006, and October 2007 fishkills occurred. The Rapu-Rapu Fact-Finding Commission recommended mine closure. Lafayette Mining Limited downplayed the impact of the 2005 and 2006 fishkills and does not accept responsibility for the 2007 fishkill. The CEC, UP College of Engineering and UP NSRI detected heavy metals in sediment, fish and water samples. Lafayette boasts that they are ISO 14001 compliant but the ISO certificate does not address the four reasons for objecting to Rapu-Rapu mining: small size, steep slopes, heavy rainfall, acid mine drainage. The ISO certificate does not address Lafayette’s failure to keep its promise to pay billions in taxes and implement social development projects. The ISO Certification does not address the PEZA exemption of Lafayette from taxes on income earned from production of precious and base metals. We should also note that the ISO Certification does not solve the fishermen’s problem of diminished catch in fishing grounds near the island and their need to go far out into the Pacific Ocean facing gigantic waves using tiny boats just to pursue their livelihood. In 2006, the Rapu-Rapu Fact-Finding Commission submitted its recommendations to the President. Instead of following the recommendations, then DENR Secretary Angelo Reyes gave Lafayette a “second chance” through the test runs. A perusal of the report on the test runs shows that the readings of contaminants were so high and a fishkill happened during the period of the test run, in July 2006. Yet, permission to resume full operation was granted in February 2007. Indeed, what were conducted were not test runs but “tutorial runs.” There was already a prior decision to grant permission for full operation. The “tests” were mere motions to counter the calls for mine closure. Regarding the October 2007 fishkill, an investigation was promised by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Albay on December 12, 2007. For more than a year now, no investigation has been done. Is this their definition of “immediately”?
Rapu-Rapu mining is nothing but large-scale environmental damage and economic injustice as the following facts show. In response to a letter from the SARA Spokesperson in 2008, the regional office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau declared the following information:
Gold – 159.80 kg = 5636.68 oz
Silver – 488.84 kg = 17,243.03 oz
Copper conc – 8841.60 dmt
Zinc conc – 17,148.50 dmt
Taxes paid – P 36,118,555.54
The following information is from Lafayette Mining Ltd.:
Commodity price forward position as of 30 June 2006
Average US$ price – forward maturity
Gold: 405.74 / oz (< 1 year)
Silver: 5.87 / oz (< 1 year)
(reference: Interim Report for the period ending 31 December 2006 Page 14)
Commodity price forward position as of 31 December 2006
Copper: 1817.00 / tonne (1-2 years)
Zinc: 946.00 /tonne
(reference: Interim Report for the period ending 31 December 2006 Page 13)
The following are the conservative estimate of average prices of the metals from London Metal Exchange website:
Gold – US$ 550 / oz
Silver – US$ 10 / oz
Copper – US$ 50
00 / dmt
Zinc – US$ 2500 / dmt
Putting these information together, we have the following calculation using conservative hedge prices:
Gold: US$ 2,287,028.29
Silver – US$ 101,216.61
Copper – US$ 16,065,187.20
Zinc – US$ 16,222,481.00
Total = US$ 34,675,913.10
At P40 = US$, the total is P 1,387,036,523.84. The taxes paid are therefore merely 2.604%. Using LME prices:
Gold: US$ 3,100,176.37
Silver – US$ 172,430.34
Copper – US$ 44,208,000.00
Zinc – US$ 42,871,250.00
Total = US$ 87,172,028.40
At P40 = US$, the total is P 3,614,074,268.08
The taxes paid are therefore merely 0.999%. This means that Lafayette paid merely 1% in excise taxes, not to Rapu-Rapu or Albay but to the BIR.
In 2008, Lafayette earned P847 million. On inquiry from the Regional Director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau Region V, the Save Rapu-Rapu Alliance obtained the amount of zinc and copper extracted from Rapu-Rapu in 2008 by LPI under the management of Koreans and Malaysians:
Zinc – 3583.77 dmt
Copper – 4267.94 dmt
At US$ 1100 (zinc) and US$ 3300 (copper) per dry metric ton and exchange rate of P47 per dollar, the total income was P 185,280,909.00 (zinc) and P 661,957,494.00 (copper) for a total of P 847,238,403.00.
Then LPI boasted through a local tabloid, Mayon Times, on December 3, 2008 that it “shared the bounty with the people of Rapu-Rapu. On verification, the amount spent was P270,000 or a measly 3% of 1% of their income in 2008, a pittance in exchange for posterity and patrimony!
900 families x 10 kg/family x P30/kg = P270,000.00
Ratio: P270,000 / P847,238,403 = 0.00032 = 0.032%
The true intention was not to share the bounty but to twist people’s arm into accepting the continued operation of the mine because on the same signature sheet where the recipients acknowledged receipt of 10 kgs of rice, it is written that the rice distribution was “Sharing of Bounty by the Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project for the Continued Operation of the Mine.”
All the promises of social development projects, taxes, and mine rehabilitation fund are logically to be funded from the income of Lafayette from its operation in Rapu-Rapu. It does not need a brilliant mind to realize that the company is frying the island in its own fat. Lafayette is so bold in announcing that they have reserved, for example, P157 million for mine rehabilitation. Three things are very clear: (1) that huge amount is from the natural wealth of the island which is owned, in the first place, by the residents; (2) that amount is so big while the rice that they distributed is such a pittance; (3) if Lafayette did not destroy the island, then there is no need to rehabilitate it. They wound the island, then boast that they applied bandage on it!
The situation in Rapu-Rapu Island is desperate. Hunger, disease and ecological disasters are unabated and continue to worsen day by day. Children on the Pacific side die of diarrhea and vomiting for lack of medical services. Respiratory problems are common. These cases, residents confirm, never happened with the same frequency in the past as after the start of mining operations. Fish is scarce in the waters offshore. Even “tagunason,” an edible marine organism that used to be abundant on the shorelines during low tide, is gone. They cannot bathe in the beaches because they experience skin itch and rashes. The creeks are yellowish-red, an indication of acid mine drainage, and no longer host freshwater fish. The dap-dap trees along the banks are dead. Corrals still stand but are pale and likewise dead. No fish can be seen around them. The residents estimate that 50% of the corrals near Buenavista are dead. This explains the observation that fish catch is down. The blue marlin used to be abundant in April and May and 20 could be caught in years past. This year, only 6 have been caught. For the entire island, fish catch decline is estimated at 80-90% since the mine started to operate. There is severe scarcity of drinking water. “We continue to suffer from the adverse effects of mining operation of Lafayette. Foreign mining companies have grabbed our lands, poisoned our seas and destroyed our environment. Worse, the Arroyo government, instead of helping, has abandoned us and is stubbornly forcing us to accept the destructive operation of Lafayette mining,” said Antonio Casitas, leader of the local organization Sagip-Isla Sagip-Kapwa.
3. CMP: Mining activities which are undertaken in the hinterlands have become catalysts to rural development. It is illegal and unlicensed mining that have caused destruction and we enjoin Mr. Bautista and other environmentalists to help the government catch them.”
We reply: We challenge Mr. Ramos and the CMP to name these “hinterlands” that have been catalyzed to “development.” On our part, we do not know any. The following are facts: Aroroy, Masbate has been a mining town since 1837 yet it is only a 2nd Class municipality. Masbate is the poorest province of Bicol with a poverty incidence level of 62.8% according to the NSCB survey in 2000. Paracale, Camarines Norte has been a mining town since 1939 and yet it is only a 3rd Class municipality. Camarines Norte is the second poorest province of Bicol, with a poverty incidence level of 52.7% according to the NSCB survey in 2000. Both Masbate and Camarines Norte are listed as among the country’s ten (10) poorest provinces per NSCB survey in 2000. Rapu-Rapu, Albay has been mined since the 1930’s but it is only a 4th Class municipality, the poorest in the province. In its 2000 survey, the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) identified the top ten poorest provinces. Most of them are mining provinces. On the other hand, the top ten richest provinces or congressional districts are all non-mining areas. In his testimony before the Rapu-Rapu Fact-Finding Commission on April 6, 2006 Heherson T. Alvarez stated that the mining communities of the Cordilleras, Canada, and Australia “have become miserable patches of poverty after the gold or the mineral ore was extracted.” What they call legal and licensed mining are those quarrying and processing operations owned by big business. Small-scale mining done by lowly entrepreneurs are “illegal and unlicensed” because they have no connections to the powerful political leaders. The destruction in Rapu-Rapu, Aroroy, Larap, Marinduque, Mangkayan, etc was caused by “legal and licensed” miners. We enjoin the government to declare how big business really operates in these devastated areas.
4. Ramos: Perlas had a “different definition of sustainable development . . . He wants a purist environment action versus (an action) with economic activity,” pointing out that this was the mindset of a politician . . . There’s no sustainable development without economic activity. We can’t live in a very pure environment but we die of starvation.
We reply: Labelling Mr. Perlas as purist does not win the argument. Mr. Ramos only reduces it to cheapness. Mr. Ramos also fails to see the environment as an important political issue. Moreover, whatever he means by “pure environment” he alone knows. On the other hand, it is clear to us that the economy cannot prosper if the environment is destroyed. All the inputs of production come from the environment. Distribution and consumption, as the other two basic economic activities, presuppose the preservation of the environment. Otherwise, how will goods be transported to reach the consumer if there is no sustainable source of energy, roads and railways whose design conform to ecological requisites? No one will consume the goods if people are stricken by disease in a polluted environment. Al Gore says it so well in “An Inconvenient Truth.” If we don’t have a planet, gold bars are worthless.
5. Ramos: “The Arroyo administration had to take the middle ground between the purists and those pushing the mining industry from an “economic point of view . . . There’s the extreme left and the extreme right. Government has to take the middle ground... We have obligations to the Filipino people which have to be done in a very responsible way.”
We reply: We do not see the Arroyo administration in the middle ground. Perhaps Mr. Ramos means “muddled ground.” As taxpayers, we see the Arroyo administration on the extreme side of big business. Rapu-Rapu mining, Arroyo’s flagship, is a clear case showing where this administration stands – with Lafayette. Otherwise, the people of the island would not have suffered from increasing hunger and poverty.
6. Ramos: Since the 1996 Marcopper mining disaster, the government and the mining industry had taken steps to prevent a repeat of this catastrophe.
We reply: The Mining Act of 1995 became law a year before the Marcopper disaster in 1996. That law never prevented the tragedy in Marinduque. The Mining Act of 1995 is useless in restoring the original condition of that island province. As of March 2009, “The people of Marinduque continue to suffer the destructive effects of mining in their province even as justice continues to elude them. The Marinduque case demonstrates our government’s failure to protect its citizens from large scale mining companies (that) violate our laws and environmental safety standards with impunity.” (Ronald Gregorio of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center in a statement to the Mindanao Examiner) Where is the Mining Act of 1995? Until today, Barrick Gold Corporation which bought Placer Dome cannot be made accountable for its irresponsibility. Indeed, how can a Philippine law be used against a juridical person outside the country? Yet, it is this same law that provided lavish benefits to Placer Dome and other mining companies. If a repeat of Marcopper is to be avoided, we must scrap the Mining Act of 1995 and replace it with a People’s Mining Policy.
7. Ramos: Both the government and mining companies had set in place business models that “balance and integrate economic, social, and environment objectives that aim for sustainable development and not just mining at all cost.”
We reply: This is a motherhood statement that has been observed more in the breach. There are no facts to substantiate this as well as other statements of Mr. Ramos.
8. Ramos: The DENR had also put in place a 24/7 monitoring on all mining activities.
We reply: This is not true. In Rapu-Rapu, the residents learned of the toxic spills long before DENR personnel did. Not even the Multi-partite Monitoring Team took the lead in reporting the spills. Instead, it kept quiet until the damage could no longer be hidden from the public.
9. Ramos: Aside from the environmental compliance certificate, the DENR also required mining companies to rehabilitate mine areas as well as follow a clearly defined final land use.
We reply: This is another motherhood statement. When mining companies are done, they just pack up and leave the clean up to the next mine owner or the government. This is what Lafayette Mining Limited did in Rapu-Rapu. This is what Placer Dome, the mother company of Marcopper Corporation, did in Marinduque. Today, Kores, LGI and MSC would not take responsibility for the mistakes of Lafayette Mining Limited. Barrick Gold Corporation which bought Placer Dome does not accept responsibility for the Marcopper disaster. It has been observed that mining companies would do a “rigodon” in order to escape from their responsibilities.
10. Ramos: The $2.1-billion mining industry has an existing 600,000 direct and indirect employment. By 2013, it is projected that the industry would be worth $13 billion.
We reply: This figure is out of the blue and has no evidence to back it up. In Rapu-Rapu, the mining company under the Koreans and Malaysians distributed rice to 900 families at 10 kgs per family. Their income in 2008 was P847 million. Simple arithmetic shows that at P30 per kg, Lafayette doled out a mere 3% of 1% of their income! They claim to employ 875 workers. The fishermen suffering from loss of livelihood due to the sudden decline in fish catch since 2005 are around 14,000. The company prospects to earn $1.54 billion. The wages and social development projects it promised to give amount to just around ½ of 1% (0.594%). In exchange, the people of Rapu-Rapu will lose 100% of their island. Lafayette invested $40 million. This means that for every dollar put in, Lafayette targets to gain $38.5! The gain of $37.5 comes from the sweat of lowly paid workers and the minerals extracted from our land. The Philippine government and the CMP allows this because of their junior partnership with foreign investors.
11. CMP: The industry was only given impetus by the government in late 2003 and it was only in 2005 when the Supreme Court finally resolved and affirmed the constitutionality of the Mining Act when the industry was resurrected.
We reply: The Mining Act was first declared unconstitutional. We can only surmise how it came to be constitutional later. With the resurrection of the mining industry came the death of agriculture in mining areas. Our food supply was diminished. We do not have to argue about the constitutionality of our diminished food supply!
We reply: With only 2% of income to be paid as taxes required under the law, with 8 years of tax holiday, with damaged environment, with diminished fish catch, it is hard to see how the CMP could claim such “substantial contributions to the economy.” They are more credible if they say mining contributed substantially to their incomes.
Mining companies have devious ways to diminish their contributions to the economy. Look at the corporate structure of Lafayette in Rapu-Rapu. Even the DENR is confused.
The (Rapu-Rapu Fact-Finding) Commission reported that there is a confusing corporate set-up, that is, that there are at least two corporate entities (RRMI and RRPI) holding mining-related permits and operating inside the Rapu- Rapu Island.
Upon closer scrutiny of the existing records of these companies, the DENR agrees with this finding. (Please see previous blogs.)
Reference: DENR Assessment of the Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project, 2006; p.23
How are RRMI and RRPI related? They are the two “hands” of Lafayette Philippines, Inc. RRMI digs the ground for ores and “sells” them to RRPI which in turn crushes the ores and extracts the metals by using cyanide and sulfuric acid. In effect, the left hand “sells” to the right hand. LPI owns 100% of RRPI and 64% of RRMI. The remaining 36% of RRMI is owned by a law firm called Fortun Narvasa Salazar Creenola. LPI is owned by three foreign companies: Korea Resources Corporation (Kores), 26%; LG International Corporation (LGI), 44%; and Malaysia Smelting Corporation (MSC), 30%. Neither RRMI or RRPI is owned by Filipinos.
Reference: DENR Assessment of the Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project, 2006; p. 27
The tax incentives provided to mining companies further reduce their contribution to the economy. Rapu-Rapu, again, is an example. The total cost of social development and livelihood program of Lafayette was made attractive to the people of Rapu-Rapu and even the entire Bicol Region with promises made through a press release titled “Simbag kan Lafayette Philippines, Inc. (LPI) sa mga Isyus Unong sa Operasyon Kaini sa Banwaan kan Rapu-Rapu” (Response of LPI on Issues About its Operation in the Town of Rapu-Rapu) in the Albayano Examiner in its November 19-25, 1999 issue, among which was the payment of taxes to the local government unit.
In a sudden and treacherous turnaround, Lafayette reneged on its promise to pay taxes. The company applied for exemption from local taxes under the government’s PEZA program. It went through a dubious process as the documents show. (Please see previous blogs.)
Lafayette is not even among the top ten (10) tax paying corporations in the Bicol Region as a letter from the BIR Regional Office V dated February 18, 2008 proves.
When Lafayette Mining Limited studied the feasibility of Rapu-Rapu mining, it obtained information on the total amount of metal in the Ungay and Hixbar deposits as presented on its website:
Copper – 103,885 tons
Zinc – 161,724 tons
Gold – 718,245 oz
Silver – 7,028,797 oz
In its quarterly reports Lafayette quoted the prices of the metals it mines in Rapu-Rapu. In the Lafayette Quarterly Report for the period ending March 31, 2007 page 6 it is stated that:
“During the quarter, the average LME copper price was US$ 5,965 per tonne while the average LME zinc price was US$ 3,458 per tonne. Precious metal prices were US$ 649.41 per ounce for gold and US$ 13.26 per ounce for silver.”
In the Lafayette Annual Report for the Period Ended June 30, 2007 page 5 it is stated that:
“During the quarter, the average LME copper price was US$ 7,636 per tonne while the average LME zinc price was US$ 3,666 per tonne. Precious metal prices were US$ 666.84 per ounce for gold and US$ 13.33 per ounce for silver.”
There is sufficient reason to project that these prices will continue to prevail. Owing to the great demand for metals in China over the next years, it is reasonable to expect that the prices would remain close to the higher values shown in the graphs. (http://www.lionselection.com.au/investors_centre/documents/aus_ar/AR-2006.pdf; January 19, 2008)
Nevertheless let us temper our estimation by choosing relatively lower prices as shown below:
Copper – US$ 6,000 / ton
Zinc – US$ 2,000 / ton
Gold – US$ 700 / oz
Silver – US$ 13 / oz
If we multiply the total deposit by the unit prices, we can compute the total amount that Lafayette prospects to haul:
Copper – US$ 6,000 / ton x 103,885 tons = US$ 623,310,000
Zinc – US$ 2,000 / ton x 161,724 tons = US$ 323,448,000
Gold – US$ 700 / oz x 718,245 oz = US$ 502,771,500
Silver – US$ 13 / oz x 7,028,797 oz = US$ 91,374,361
Total = US$ 1,540,903,861 x PhP 40 / US$ = P 61,636,154,440
With P 61,636,154,440 one can spend P 1M every day and will use up the amount in 169 years – the same period from the Mayon eruption that buried Cagsawa in 1814 . . . to the Aquino assassination in 1983 !
Or one can buy 61,636 boats worth P 1M each. If the width of each boat is 4 meters, then they can be lined up widthwise from Rapu-Rapu Pier 45 kms to Legazpi Port in 5 rows and still have an excess of 5,400 boats!
One may buy cars worth P1M each and line up 61,636 of them sideways from Legazpi 90 kms to Naga and still have an excess of 1,636 cars lined over 2.45 kms.
How much does Lafayette promise to give back to Rapu-Rapu? On May 9, 2007 during a conference of Pollution Control Officers in Casablanca Hotel in Legazpi City Lafayette’s Community Relations Department through Mr. Roy Cervantes, showed their plans for social development and actual employment. A close look reveals that several items had been planned for 2006 but as of May 9, 2007 P4,276,000 remained unaccomplished and only P2,244,688 were reported as accomplished.
It shows that even in Lafayette documents the total worth of alleged accomplished projects is only 34% while the unaccomplished is 66%.
In their Powerpoint presentation dated March 22, 2006, Lafayette promised P 10,246,060 in social development projects for Rapu-Rapu, P1M for Legazpi and P1.5M for Sorsogon. A day later, another presentation was prepared allotting only P 9,246,060 to the town.
Still, even the 34% implied as accomplished are refuted by the residents of Rapu-Rapu. In other words, they themselves say that Lafayette’s SDMP is a sham.
In the forum where these promises were presented, the Save Rapu-Rapu Alliance (SARA) Spokesperson took the floor and informed the presentor that according to the Parish Priest of Rapu-Rapu via text messaging, there was no goat-raising in Tinopan. He replied, “Ah, oo, wala pa kasi parating pa lang!”
Recall that in the press release printed in the Albayano Examiner on November 19-25, 1999 this project had been promised. After eight years, the goats are “parating pa lang.”
It should be reiterated that the data used in these comparisons are all from the Lafayette website (http://www.lafayettemining.com/) and the company’s Community Relations Department. We assume that Lafayette’s rosy promises are true.
On November 10, 2007 the SARA Spokesperson showed to Rapu-Rapu residents the plan presented by Mr. Roy Cervantes on May 9, 2007. To each of the items, they responded with a loud cry “Buwa!”, their word for “Lie!”
On December 12, 2007 Joshua Martinez of DZLG Bombo Radyo Legazpi reported that the local government of Rapu-Rapu had asked Lafayette when the latter would fulfill its promised prjects under the Social Development Management Plan. It appears, therefore, that the mining company has not acted on the plan. It can be argued that the SDMP amounts to NEAR ZERO. Let us compute the total amount of the projects promised since 2000:
2000-05 Social Development Management Plan
Infrastructure - 6,240,463
Livelihood - 128,944
Health and Sanitation - 1,702,000
Education - 705,100
Capability Building - 114,365
Socio-cultural - 40,000
Total - 8,930,872
2007 Social Development Management Plan (Core Budget)
Socio-econ infra - 6,691,740
Education and training - 3,609,000
Health and sanitation - 3,350,000
Food security, employment and livelihood - 2,446,760
Capacity-building - 1,564,500
Socio-cultural assistance - 338,000
Power supply for 3 brgys - 2,400,000
Water supply for 3 brgys - 500,000
Total - 20,900,000
2007 Social Development Management Plan (Supplemental Budget)
Socio-econ infra - 5,000,000
Marine turtle conservation project - 500,000
Legazpi City/Albay community development assistance - 2,069,000
Total - 7,569,000
2000-13 Social Development Management Plan
2000-05 - 8,930,872
2006 - 9,420,688
2007 - 28,469,000
Assume that for the rest of the mine life the yearly SDMP budget would be the same as that for the entire province of Albay for 2007. Assume further that Lafayette will appropriate for 2008 to 2013 the same amount as for 2007. This is being generous to Lafayette and these assumptions are very optimistic. Information from MGB V submitted to the RRFFC cites a much lower SDMP budget for the entire mine life- P31,300,000.00
2008 - 28,469,000
2009 - 28,469,000
2010 - 28,469,000
2011 - 28,469,000
2012 - 28,469,000
2013 - 28,469,000
Total - 217,634,560
In a press release titled “Simbag kan Lafayette Philippines, Inc. (LPI) sa mga Isyus Unong sa Operasyon Kaini sa Banwaan kan Rapu-Rapu” printed in the Albayano Examiner November 19-25, 1999, the following were promised:
SDMP: P 7,000,000
Employment: 350 persons
In the Powerpoint Presentation titled “Ang Proyekto sa Rapu-Rapu” dated October 27, 2001, they promised:
Taxes: P 328,000,000
Employment: 1000 first year; 416 during normal operation
Monitoring and rehabilitation fund: P5,050,000
In the Powerpoint Presentation titled “Social Development Management Plan 2006” they promised P 9,246,060
In the Powerpoint Presentation to Pollution Control Officers on May 9, 2007 in Casablanca Hotel, Legazpi City, they reported that from 2001 to 2005 they spent P 8,930,872 for SDMP; that in 2006 they spent P2,244,688 for SDMP and employed 131 persons. No taxes were reported as paid because by then they had acquired PEZA privileges. In the same Powerpoint presentation they promised P 9,246,060 in 2006 and P 30,969,000 in 2007 for SDMP.
In its 2001 presentation, Lafayette promised 416 jobs. In its 2007 presentation, the company reported only 131 from Rapu-Rapu and 65 from the rest of Albay province (total 196). Mr. Carlos Dominguez would claim “thousands”; that Lafayette is the “number one employer in Bicol.” A letter from DOLE Region V dated March 9, 2009 shows that Lafayette was not even among the top ten employers in Bicol Region where the National Power Corporation with 486 employees is number one, followed by the University of St. Anthony in Iriga with 436. Tenth in rank is Bicol Hair Export Corporation in Legazpi City with 195.
Assuming that the promises would be fulfilled and the budget for 2007 would be continued until 2013, let us compute the amount of benefits for Albay.
Total employees from Albay = 196
Average monthly salary/month = P 8000.00
Total salary exp/month = P 1,568,000.00
Total salary exp/year = P 18,816,000.00
Total salary exp for 8 years = P 150,528,000.00
Total expense for SDMP = P 217,634,560.00
Total exp for SDMP and salaries = P 368,162,560.00
Let us compute the benefit-cost ratio:
Total expense for SDMP = P 368,162,560.00
Total Lafayette income = P 61,636,154,440.00
Expense as fraction of income = P 368,162,560 / P 61,636,154,440
= 0.597 %
Note that this is less than 1%.
The total cost for residents. - Being given a minuscule 0.597% is not all. The worse part is that Rapu-Rapu will lose everything. Gaining ½ of 1% of benefits while losing 100% in costs is hardly our idea of “substantial contributions to the economy.”
13. CMP: “The prospective entry of San Miguel Corp. into the industry as well as First Pacific indicates that the relatively untapped mining sector holds a lot of promise. With 7.1 billion tons of metallic minerals and 51 billion tons of nonmetallic minerals waiting to be unearthed, downstream processing and manufacturing remains an area of immense potential.”
We reply: With the entry of more companies into mining, the risk of environmental degradation is so great because big business can dictate to government functionaries. In Albay, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan declared in October 2008 that the board was helpless because the resumption of Lafayette’s operation was already approved on the national level. There will be “development” only for big business but not for the lowly Filipino!
14. CMP: “Mr. Perlas said civil society groups are not against mining per se but are against foreign investors investing venture capital in the industry. We’d like to believe this but what they say and do all point against the development of the mining industry.”
We reply: Foreign investment, as a driver of local progress is a farce. Again, Rapu-Rapu mining, the flagship of the Arroyo administration, is a concrete example. A foreign investor would not bring in one dollar and leave with 50 cents. What is logical and makes business sense is that he brings in one dollar and leaves with two or more. The increase in his money comes from the labor of our people and our natural resources, which ought to be reserved for Filipinos. With foreign investors enjoying tax reduction and holidays, the government coffers do not benefit much. Officials allow this to happen because they benefit as junior partners of foreign investors. They do not mind if foreigners get so much. They do not mind if millions of their own people partake of the very little that remains. What they do mind is the share they receive.
15. CMP: “They want government to recognize local resolutions on mining bans and moratorium against mining even if these are contrary to national laws and policies. We will salute them if they can stop illegal logging, illegal fishing and illegal mining operations.
We reply: The national laws they speak of were written by their friends in the legislature. The illegal logging they speak of are mostly done by friends of big business. The illegal fishing they talk about is a problem even environmentalists contend with. However, the magnitude of the impact of “legal” mining on fishing grounds is so much greater and should be addressed with higher priority. Mr. Ramos and the CMP must not unduly distort the impact of “illegal fishing” compared to that of so called legal big business. Even legal loggers destroy the environment. Legal in this sense means having patrons in the branches and agencies of government who protect them.
16. CMP: “If these environmentalists are keen in monitoring environmental concerns, they should have at least mentioned about the environmental laws that have been passed, proclamations on biodiversity and protected areas and other environmental protection measures. What are needed are facts to show how this administration has balanced economics and environmental concerns.”
We reply: The laws and proclamations are one thing. Implementation is another. The reality in the Philippines is that those in high places can work around the law and proclamations. We have all the “facts to show how this administration has balanced economics and environmental concerns.” These facts are about environmental destruction in Rapu-Rapu, Aroroy, Larap, Marinduque, Mangkayan, etc. and economic injustice to the local residents.
17. CMP: “Constructive criticisms are good when alternatives or options are being offered. Sad to say, in this case, no alternatives were offered.”
We reply: Alternatives have been offered but not within the confines of their idea of mining as the vehicle of economic growth. We have to keenly ascertain whether mining in a specific area will really yield development as viewed by the people (improved chances of access to food, clothing, shelter, livelihood, education, security and recreation). The premise that mining results in development in a place has to be studied. If that basic premise is faulty, then we ought to go somewhere else to mine while other industries such as agriculture, transportation, energy, etc. should be promoted in that area. In Rapu-Rapu, the basic question is not how to mine the island. The basic question is how to develop the place and mining has been proven to be not a feasible option from the point of view of the local residents. The islanders have only one island. The miners have many other places to do their trade.
Sad to say, Mr. Ramos and the CMP only think of development in terms of trickle-down economics much like the crumbs that fall on Lazarus from the table of Dives. While they can partner with foreign investors and are happy with a small share of the wealth from exploitation of our natural resources, millions of our own people have to partake of the tiny bits of their leftover otherwise called “development.”
Here, then, is the pure truth and nothing but the truth about mining in the Philippines. In our opinion, Mr. Ramos and the CMP are describing themselves when they use the word “purist.” They are doing pure lip service to “responsible mining” and “sustainable development.” We can cut the debate short. We challenge all defenders of the Mining Act of 1995, of Rapu-Rapu mining, and all their apologists to take a weekly swim in the mouths of the creeks of Rapu-Rapu where Lafayette discharges its “treated” waste water and to eat fish if they can catch one in the area. If they can do it in a month without fear of contamination or actual health effects, then we will rest our case. If they cannot do that then they ought to stop the labeling, stop mouthing pure motherhoods altogether, close certain mines specially Rapu-Rapu, pay for the damages, clean up and take off.
July 29, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
1. They claim: The company could not be responsible for the fishkill because the tailings pond still had 11 meters from the water level to the top of the dam and the company was not operating at that time.
We reply: The 11-meter allowance is not a convincing defense because the dam should be inspected for possible cracks where poison could seep through. The document that attests to the possibility of cracks on the dam is the Technical Working Group Report on the "test" runs of July-December, 2006. Pages 8 and 9 state:
To ensure that transparency is maintained in the test run implementation, the following obereved the test run:
- The Philippine Institute of Civil engineers (PICE) Camarines Sur Chapter headed by Engr. Macario Apin II
Among the observations were:
Outside plant facilities like tailings pond / dam, catchment basin, etc. must be inspected and observed daily for any anomalies like cracks and seepages.
The operation or non-operation of the mine is irrelevant. What is relevant is the fact that poison is impounded in the site at the mercy of heavy rains. Moreover, the normal management of cyanide (as presented by Ms. Carmelita Borbe Pacis through a powerpoint presentation dated March 22, 2006) consisted of detoxification at the tailings pond, flow of detoxified liquid to the settling and polishing ponds, and final discharge to the sea. Investigation of the incident should therefore include the detoxification process and the settling and polishing ponds.
We should also consider the finding of Dr. Carlito Barril that Lafayette used acid-forming rocks in the construction of its dam. The Mines and Geosciences Bureau Presentation to the Rapu-Rapu Fact-Finding Commission acknoledges on Slide 71 the use of waste rocks as dam and road construction materials. Dr. Barril puts his expert's credentials behind the assertion that sich waste rocks could produce acid when rained upon.
Furthermore, the photographs taken from the seawater off Poblacion show a brownish coloration. This indicates the presence of silt. In the island of Rapu-Rapu, the major source of silt whenever there is heavy rainfall is the open pit and adjacent areas inside the mine site. The flow of silt indicates the flow of liquid that comes from the mine site. This liquid should have been investigated for the presence of toxic chemicals as well.
The Technical Working Group Report on the test runs confirms on Page 27 that seepage apparently come from the toe of the dam!
Daily samples are taken to determine pH, temperature, and conductivity. Metals and DO (dissolved oxygen)are also being undertaken (sic) on a weekly basis. The evaluation of the results indicates the presence of cadmium and lead in elevated levels from in (sic) Pagcolbon and Maypajo creeks. These metals apparently come from the adit and the seepage from the toe of the dam.
2. They claim: The level of cyanide in the dead fish was only 0.001 while the tolerable level is 0.002 (statement of DENR Regional Director in an interview on November 1, 2007 over Channel 11 in Manila.)
We reply: The DENR Regional Director declared this result merely three (3) days after their reported sampling on October 29, 2007. Our sources say that it takes at least 15 days to analyze a dead fish sample because the process requires incubation. How can a result, therefore, be obtained by the DENR in 3 days?
Moreover, the DENR reported only the results of marine water sampling. What is the result of their freshwater sampling? The analysis of water samples taken from the settling ponds, polishing ponds, wetland, and creeks should have been made with transparency and also reported. To this day the DENR and BFAR have not disseminated copies of their reports. They fear that their "report" when scrutinized will be found severely deficient.
3. They claim: The dead fish were observed only in Poblacion, some 7 kilometers from the mine site. So, Lafayette cannot be responsible for the fishkill.
We reply: The fishkill was reported from Pagcolbon where Lafayette is operating all the way to the Rapu-Rapu Port. Dead fish were seen off the shores of Sta. Barbara, Carugcog, and Malobago. Even the residents of Binosawan, Linao and Tinopan (Pacific side) reported the presence of dead fish off their shores.
It should be recalled that in the Ibon Foundation case study conducted on February 14-19 and released on April 23, 2007 it is reported that fish catch in Malobago declined as much as 93%. Since Pagcolbon and Malobago are adjacent barangays, it can be concluded that the remaining fish in the waters of these barangays are so few such that even if so much poison is poured into them, there will be less fish that will die. Once the poison is carried by the current to other areas where there are more fish, then can we observe also more dead fish.
On October 26 and 27, a typhoon was hovering over northern Luzon. This induced winds from the southwest. High tide flows from the east. The resultant of the southwest wind and the high tide from the east would be a current to the northwest owing to the same orientation of Rapu-Rapu Island. This current can carry to the waters off Poblacion whatever poison obtains in the Pagcolbon area. In reverse, upon the onset of low tide the direction of the current is from the west. This will carry the poison to the Pacific side of the southern tip of Rapu-Rapu. When the high tide returns, the current will take the poison back to the port area and the northern part of the Pacific side of the island. This is the scientific explanation for the presence of dead fish in several barangays (villages).
After the spills of October 2005, the arsenic and copper contamination reached Sorsogon, 12 kilometers from the mine site, as revealed in the study conducted by the UP NSRI in January 2006. In the oil spill off the shores of Guimaras, the contamination reached 200 kilometers. Therefore, seven kilometers is not enough distance to prevent contamination from reaching Poblacion.
4. They claim: The fishkill could have been caused by compressor fishing.
We reply: The method of fishing using a compressor does not necessarily entail the use of any poison. The compressor is the same equipment used to inflate rubber tires and balls. It is used by divers to supply themselves with air as they explore underwater for fish. To catch fish using a compressor, a diver uses an arrow. If ever a chemical is used, the amount is just low because he just wants to disable the fish and using a big amount would kill even the diver. Once a diver using a compressor has disabled the fish, he gathers and does not leave them to scatter over a wide area. Hence, the use of a compressor cannot lead to the death of so many fish or their scattering over a wide area.
Compressor fishing with spear is confirmed even by Lafayette in Slide 12 of its Powerpoint presentation titled "Project Baseline Data."
We do not condone compressor fishing that uses cyanide but neither do we inordinately blame ordinary people for the misdeeds of big business as we do not ascribe the Holocaust to common street thugs.
5. They claim: The fish died because of strong current (BFAR).
We reply: On September 27 and November 30, 2006, when Milenyo (185 km/hr) and Reming (270 km/hr) respectively passed through Albay, the sea waves were more turbulent but no fishkill was observed. The BFAR conclusion is contradictory to its advise to Rapu-Rapu residents through TV Patrol Bicol on November 7, 2007 that the latter should not yet eat fish. If the fishkill was due to strong current and not chemical contamination, then the fish would still be edible after a few hours. Why did BFAR advise the people not to eat fish?
6. They claim: The fish died of pollution from farm chemicals.
We reply: There is no significant runoff from parts of the island with thick vegetation. On the contrary, there is severe denudation in the mining area and runoff is evidenced by the presence of silt emanating from the mouths of creeks there. At the time of the fishkill, the farmers of Rapu-Rapu were harvesting and not planting so no farm chemicals were being used. Moreover, the farmers of Rapu-Rapu do not use any appreciable amount of fertilizers and pesticides, being largely poor and incapable of affording the price of these inputs. On the mainland, where chemical fertilizers and pesticides are used there is no report of any fishkill in rivers or shores. Fish in Yawa River, for example, still survive even with the obvious pollution indicated by a black contaminant and foams developing in the then existing Spillway.
7. They claim: The fish died of drowning.
We reply: People laugh aloud when they hear this Lafayette claim. In fairness, fish can drown if there is insufficient oxygen in water. Insufficiency of oxygen can be attributed to:
a. overcrowding of fish in a limited space
b. warming of temperature of the water
Overcrowding in a limited space cannot happen in Albay Gulf because fishermen report a precipitous decline in fish catch, indicating a decline in fish population. Moreover, the Albay Gulf is so wide. If Albay Gulf is too small for them, then there is the Pacific Ocean, the widest body of water in the world.
Warming of seawater could not have occurred because the fishkill happened during rainy days when temperature was lower than that of previous days.
The only explanation for insufficiency of oxygen is pollution. Around Rapu-Rapu, what is the most identifiable source of pollution? The open pit and access roads are major sources of silt. The sea current flows from the seawater off the area of the mine site to the Poblacion. The brownish color of the seawater in Poblacion indicates the presence of silt. Silt itself can kill fish by way of clogging their gills according to Dr. Emelina Regis of Ateneo de Naga University's Institute for Environmental Conservation and Research. If silt can reach the Poblacion, so can any chemical if it is emitted at the mine site.
8. They claim: Government agencies have cleared the company of any culpability for the fishkill.
We reply: Government agencies have refused to link Lafayette to the fishkill so they have not investigated the company. How can a government agency clear a suspect which has not even been investigated? The explanations cited by the government agencies have been rebutted. The DENR and BFAR have not publicized the documents containing their reports. These agencies together with Lafayette have not been cleared by the citizens of the doubt generated when they claimed that the fish died first of strong current, then of compressor fishing, and lastly of drowning. The people hearing about the results react with disbelief and ridicule.
9. They claim: A fishkill also happened in Catanduanes.
We reply: That the Rapu-Rapu fishkill cannot be attributed to Lafayette because a fishkill also happened in Catanduanes is a non sequitur. Different fishkills have different causes. The cause of fishkill in Catanduanes, assuming the report is true should be investigated. The fishkill in Rapu-Rapu has alleged causes that should be investigated also. Compressor fishing, water turbulence, farm chemicals and drowning have been refuted but pollution from Lafayette remains to be deeply investigated. It can even be argued that the October 2007 spill was so pervasive it reached the distant shores of Catanduanes aided by sea current. This has basis on the fact that there is a south-to-north current direction in our part of the Pacific Ocean as illustrated in "An Inconvenient Truth."
10. They claim: The death of the fish observed on October 26 to 29, 2007 cannot be considered as fishkill.
We reply: In 2005, the DENR and Lafayette acknowledged having collected about two kilograms of dead fish (in spite of the reports by residents that two sacks wer gathered in Binosawan alone). They called the event a fishkill. This time, about two sacks of dead fish were acknowledged as having been collected (DENR report to Kinatawan Celso Aytona who in turn reported ito the Provincial Board on November 7, 2007). If two kilograms indicated for them a fishkill in 2005, then why not two sacks in 2007?
11. They claim: In 2005, a hoax was perpetrated by anti-mining groups leading to a fish scare in Sorsogon.
We reply: The fishkill in 2005 was not a hoax. Documents submitted by Lafayette to the DENR and subpoenaed by the Rapu-Rapu Fact-Finding Commission are evidences that the mining company admitted their culpability for the 2005 fishkills. The fish scare in Sorsogon should not be blamed on anti-mining groups but on Lafayette itself because the decision not to buy fish is a result of the cyanide spills caused by the mining company. The anti-mining groups did not have to tell people not to buy fish. The people themselves decided so.
12. They claim: The anti-Lafayette groups are destroying the livelihood of fishermen in Rapu-Rapu.
We reply: The livelihood of the fishermen is being destroyed by those who spill poison into the sea where Rapu-Rapu fishermen depend for a living. Anti-Lafayette groups do not have an open pit from where silt flows to the sea when it rains heavily. Anti-Lafayette groups do not use cyanide solution which is mixed with ore to extract gold. Anti-Lafayette groups do not unleash heavy metals from the rocks of Rapu-Rapu and let them flow through creeks to the sea.
The fishermen of Rapu-Rapu do not blame anti-Lafayette groups but Lafayette itself for the fishkills that have happened. The fishermen of Rapu-Rapu welcome with open arms anti-Lafayette groups who visit them while shouting when a boat arrives at the port that they do not want Lafayette personnel on their island. They say, “Bawal an taga-Lafayette digdi! An taga-Lafayette iuulog mi sa dagat.” ("Lafayette personnel are banned here. We will push them into the sea!)
The psychological effect of the fishkill on the residents of Rapu-Rapu comes after their own experience of being hospitalized subsequent to eating fish caught in the seawater off the shores of the island. The Sangguniang Bayan of Rapu-Rapu’s declaration of a state of calamity is proof that the fishkill, not the anti-Lafayette groups, damaged the livelihood of the fishermen.
13. They threaten: Those responsible for the hoax that is the October 2007 fishkill will be prosecuted.
We reply: We are ready to face Lafayette in court. The fishkill on October 26 to 29, 2007 is not a hoax. It is true. Even BFAR told the residents of Rapu-Rapu not to eat fish from their area. (TV Patrol Bicol November 7, 2007) This is proof that there is contamination among the fish. People who tell the truth should not be prosecuted but protected by the law.
14. Fact: On October 31. 2007 the Lady Jacqueline, a fastcraft used by Lafayette when it still had the services of Leighton, was docked at the farthest end of the Legazpi pier. On closer look, the boat held a big yellow machine. Asked about it, the security guard replied that it was a pump that was to be unloaded for repairs on the mainland. Beside the yellow machine were two boxes one measuring about 2m x 3m x 1m was open and contained some plastic sheets and green rubber mat. The other, measuring about 2 ft x 2 ft x 4 ft. was sealed with plastic sheets protruding from the edges. A photograph of the boat, the pump and the boxes are available for inspection. On November 11, 2007 the same fastcraft was docked closer to public view near the port entrance this time without the yellow machine and boxes.
This would have been a significant object of investigation. However, those in authority never conducted a thorough study of the October 2007 fishkill despite all claims of interest to do it. The DENR and BFAR merely announced alleged results of their inquiries but no official documents were released for public scrutiny. The Albay Provincial Board formed an investigation committee, according to radio news, too late in October 2008. No names were mentioned as to the members. A year and ten months later, the investigation is still an empty promise.
We are interested in the investigation of that “yellow machine” because it was a pump to be repaired. On October 11, 2005 the spill was caused by a faulty pump. On October 26-29, 2007, there was a fishkill and a damaged pump again. Were responsible authorities afraid to unravel their connection?
As we have been challenging them, if all these arguments do not convince the pro-Lafayette side, then we challenge them: every weekend they should dive in the beach near the mouth of creeks where their waste water is discharged, gargle the water and eat fish caught there. If they can do this, then we in SARA will rest our case. If they cannot, then they should stop all claims about their mine being safe and clean, close it, clean it, pay for the damages, pack up and leave the island.