Reports from Rapu-Rapu Island by residents confirm the continued presence of members of the paramilitary Citizen Armed Forces for Geographical Units (CAFGU) in the mine site and creeks. The employment of CAFGUs was legalized through an executive order during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, author of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 when she was a senator. The public is not allowed to freely go to the creeks. Members of the NGO Sagip Isla Sagip Kapwa report that whenever outsiders approach the creeks, warning shots are fired.
Violent incidents involving CAFGUs include the arrest on July 26, 2006 of a Greenpeace activist, David Andrade who was merely gathering soil and water samples in Mirikpitik Creek. On November 16, 2008, Jessie Ecleo was found dead in Sitio Mirikpitik, Barangay Pagcolbon. The suspect, CAFGU Daniel Sumbilon Bongca of San Pablo, Zamboanga del Sur, admitted that he hit the victim with a lead pipe at the head causing instant death. (See Rapu-Rapu police blotter) Bongca surrendered to the police soon after the incident but today he is at large.
RRMI and RRPI claim that they employ guards in the creeks to prevent anti-mining activists from pouring poison into them. This is a lame excuse because those guards are not able to prevent contamination of the creeks. It is like preventing people from entering a leprosarium not to contain the disease and protect the public but to prevent tinea flava from entering the compound. If the CAFGU presence is intended to preserve the clean condition of the creeks, then why are mining executives unwilling to dip into the water there, even with armed guards? It is obvious that the guards have kept away the activists but not the contamination understandably since the latter comes from the mine site. The truth is that those CAFGUs are there to prevent activists from taking water and soil samples which can be used as evidence in a fair court of law.
The CAFGUs also prevent environmentalists from taking still photos and videos of the latest condition of the creeks. If there is nothing to hide and instead there is evidence of clean operations to show, then why should the public be prevented from viewing the creeks? Opening the creeks to public scrutiny will finally silence the opposition but only if they are clean. Since they are not, the option of RRMI and RRPI is to seal the creeks off.
RRMI and RRPI cannot produce the still photos and videos themselves because there will be questions of credibility. In addition, to clean portions of the creeks for a few hours of photo operation would require ten or even twenty years of scrubbing the banks and creek beds. To do that, they need to suspend mining operations. That option will diminish their profits. So, why clean the creeks? For them it is less costly to hire CAFGUs and prevent eyewitnesses from gathering evidence. They can only arrange tours inside the mine site and show areas they have pre-cleaned and claim their operations are environment-friendly. What need to be visited are areas outside the mine site impacted by mining. Visitors should also interview the people in the island and mainland Albay (there are 14,000 fishermen among them) suffering from loss of livelihood since 2005, the same year when mining went full blast in Rapu-Rapu. The truth about the creeks is crucial to the mining issue because they are the link between the mining operation and the 95% drop in fish catch in Albay Gulf.
Indeed, Rapu-Rapu mining is responsible . . . for severe environmental damage to the island and economic injustice to the people.