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.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Facts about the October 26-29, 2007 fishkill
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.