Environmental destruction continues in Zambales due to mining

January 5, 2018

ATM Statement

Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) is strongly disappointed about the recent decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) to reject the plea of Zambalenos to stop mining in their province. Last January 3, 2018, the CA issued its decision not to grant an Environmental Protection Order (EPO) to stop nickel mining in the town of Sta. Cruz in Zambales.  The petition was filed by the Concerned Citizens of Sta. Cruz (CCOS), a community organization based in the province.

Our alliance believes that Sta. Cruz and the whole province of Zambales need the EPO to prevent the illegal activities of four mining companies that continue to operate, despite the cancellation orders issued by former DENR Secretary Gina Lopez.  The four large-scale mining companies have been blamed for the irreversible environmental degradation and destruction include Zambales Diversified Metals Corp. (ZDMC); Benguetcorp Nickel Mines, Inc. (BNMI); LNL Archipelagic Mining, Inc. (LAMI); and Eramen Minerals, Inc.

Residents blame the mining operations for the contamination of irrigation waters, river siltation and flooding that has affected their agricultural livelihoods.  According to data released by Department of Agriculture, nickel mining in Sta. Cruz, Zambales is causing the loss of 8,000 tons of palay (rice) production annually worth Php 200 million (US$ 5M). Sta. Cruz has lost production in an estimated 1,000 hectares of irrigated rice lands.

It has also suffered an estimated loss of Php 20-million (US$ 0.5M) of fish catch in three major rivers and at least another Php 30-million (or US$0.75M) reduction of fish production in at least 100-hectares of fishpond.  It is estimated that each hectare of fishpond is earning a net of Php 300,000.00 annually.

Our alliance will continue to support the quest for justice by Zambalenos. In rendering its recent decision, the CA failed to consider the lack of political will of DENR officials to enforce the cancellation orders and the continuing illegal mining activities documented by local communities.  The logical next step for this judicial track is to seek redress from the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, ATM will intensify and strengthen its support to the camp-protest being maintained by CCOS and other local groups in front of the DENR Central Office in Visayas Ave., Quezon City.  We are literally knocking at the doors of DENR Sec. Roy Cimatu to decisively act and respond to the demands of the protestors.

DENR should immediately implement the cancellation orders against the four mining companies illegally operating in Sta. Cruz, Zambales.  All permits to transport and export nickel ores must be revoked. The department should conduct an independent investigation on the environmental destruction in the province.  Compensation to affected families who lost their livelihoods must be given. Rehabilitation of affected areas including farms, fishponds, coastal areas, rivers and irrigation systems must be implemented.

ATM appeals to Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to issue an executive order establishing a ban on open-pit mining across the whole country.  Duterte’s recent pronouncement that he will sustain a DENR Administrative Order (DAO 2017-10) on the ban on open-pit mining issued by former Sec. Gina Lopez, is a welcome development.

We urge the Office of the President to reject all the appeals submitted by mining companies regarding the cancellation or suspension orders against their operations.

Our alliance asks Pres. Duterte to give clear instructions to DENR Sec. Cimatu to address the mining issues in Zambales, as well as in other mining-affected areas. Sec. Cimatu’s stance of “business-as-usual” for mining is unacceptable.  We reiterate that Sec. Cimatu must implement the ban on open-pit mining.

We demand Congress prioritize the enactment of a new mining law, the Alternative Minerals Management Bill (AMMB) still pending at the House Committee on Natural Resources.  The AMMB and other “green bills” must be passed to allow the country to move forward with sustainable development and to address and adapt to climate change realities.

We call on President Duterte to certify as urgent the AMMB, in order to be prioritized by Congress.

Finally, the environmental and human rights group will continue to be vigilant in exposing the myth of “responsible mining”.  The recent decision of the CA and lackluster performance of the DENR in addressing mining issues begs us to ask the question – “how can responsible mining happen when the environment is destroyed, livelihoods are lost and lives are threatened”?

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ATM is an alliance of mining-affected communities and their support groups of NGOs/POs and other civil society organizations who are opposing the aggressive promotion of large-scale mining in the Philippines. ATM is pushing for the repeal of RA7942 and the enactment of the Philippine Mineral Resources Act.

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