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.
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