Over a hundred farmers from barangays Maasin, Mambalot, and Ipilan in Brooke’s Point staged a protest rally Sunday against the Ipilan Nickel Corporation (INC), claiming that nickel laterites from its mine site are contaminating their farmlands and endangering their only sources of income.
The farmers demonstrated in front of the Ipilan mining office in Sitio New Panay, Brgy. Maasin, after discovering nickel laterites in some Mambalot farmlands in November of last year.
Samuel Yayen, who is also the president of the Mambalot Irrigators, believes they may have come from Maasin, where Ipilan has a mining operation.
“Direkta lahat ng ilog sa amin sa Mambalot at Ipilan, galing taas lahat yan at bababa ng kapatagan. Ito ang aming ipinag-aalala talaga na kung magpapatuloy ito, paano na ang mga magsasakang patuloy na umaasa sa pagtatanim ng palay at masisira lang ng ganito,” Yayen said.
Yayen said that if Ipilan’s operation continues, their palay and small vegetable fields will eventually be destroyed due to contamination rendering them unfit for cultivation.
He added that they hope to bring INC’s activities to a halt in order to save their livelihoods through their united efforts.
“Malaki ang boses namin, malaki ang magagawa namin kung magkakaisa kami, pero alam namin na may iilang mga sumasandal sa minahan. Manindigan naman sana sila para sa amin, dahil tuluyang mawawala ang produksyon ng palay sa Brooke’s Point kung hindi ito titigil,” dagdag niya.
Job Lagrada, an anti-mining advocate, said the protest is part of their strategy to seek President Rodrigo Duterte’s intervention to protect the farmlands and their owners in the three barangays.
They will also make appeals for help to worldwide communities to have their problem fixed, if necessary.
“Lalaban kami, lalaban tayo para sa Brooke’s Point, nananawagan pa rin kami ng pagkakaisa na sana ay magtagumpay tayo upang wakasan ang pagmimina sa aming bayan,” Lagrada said.
He added that despite mining’s contribution to national government revenues, its bad consequences negate its benefits.