Environmentalist groups have once again raised their call for the stop of mining operations in the province of Palawan.
Save Palawan Movement (SPM) renewed the call after the town of Brooke’s Point was submerged in floods late in December last year and in the first week of January this year, leaving thousands of families displaced and million of pesos worth of infrastructure and agriculture destroyed.
In a press conference held last Friday, the group assailed concerned government agencies for what it called biased decisions that led to the destruction of forests in the town and caused massive flooding.
Job Lagrada, a representative of the Ipilan Farmers’ Group, stated that the government should halt the operation of the Ipilan Nickel Corporation in Barangay Maasin, claiming that it is causing more harm than good.
He stated that while they are not totally against mining, the government must carefully study its impact not only on the environment but also on the economy.
“Talaga nga bang kikita ang pamahalaan o yung mga nasa ibabaw ng kabundukan, ng lupa at sa karagatan ay mas malaki pa ang halaga kaysa sa pakinabang na ating matatanggap? Sapagkat ang pagmimina ay ibinibigay natin sa ilang indibidwal na may puhunan,” Lagrada stated.
He added that Brooke’s Point has a high income even before mining begins.
“Mining contributes only up to 2 percent while agriculture is 10 to 18 percent. Kung sa ngalan lang ng job opportunities, nakaparami nang ibinigay ang agriculture,” he said.
“We should not sacrifice our agriculture because mining is just wasting our natural resources,” he added further stating that the system and the laws on mining should be revisited or changed because it is not favoring the government.
According to Lagrada, while the effects of climate change are already being felt, they are also the result of developments that include the mining industry.
There have been instances of flooding in the past, but the most recent incident was unique because the rain was caused by a low-pressure area alone.
“As time passes and because of developments, we can see the need for more forests which as scientists say is a solution because it somehow mitigates the effects of climate change,” he explained.
Mamilmar Dubria, President of Brooke’s Point indigenous people’s youth group also said that while climate change is also to blame, mining is also a primary contributor.
“Laging nakaangkla ang pagmimina dahil isa ito sa contributor sa pag-init ng mundo. Hindi lamang sa pagputol ng puno, maging ang mga inilalabas na usok ng mga equipment,” he said.
Kailangan pa bang magbuwis ng buhay para lang matigil ang pagmimina? Huwag na natin hintayin na dumating yung time na magsisi tayo sa huli,” he added.
Protect and rehabilitate
Lagrada further said what Brooke’s Point needs now is protection of what is left and rehabilitation of what was destroyed.
“Let’s not blame anybody anymore because we have to admit that we are all part of it. Just don’t add to the destruction anymore,” he said.
What we are saying is that mining is not welcome in Brooke’s Point anymore because it adds more problems than solutions,” he added.
Local government decision
Lagrada also called on the national government to listen to the decision of local government units concerned as they are the ones who see and feel what needs to be done.
“May mandato ang local government kaya dapat lang, irespeto. Buhay namin ang nakataya. Sino ba ang miners? Saan sila galing? Hindi apektado ang mga yan dahil hindi sila taga-Palawan,” he said.
He also said they have sent so many letters to concerned government agencies particularly the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) among others but have yet to receive reply.
“We are also calling on our president to take action. Hinahamon ko kayo na puntahan ninyo ang aming bayan at pakinggan ninyo ang aming karaingan na mga ordinaryong mamamayan at ang kahilingan naming ay inyong tugunan. Nananawagan din kami sa mga senador na sana ay magsagawa ng imbestigasyon dito,” he said.
Meanwhile, Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC) Executive Director Atty. Grizelda Mayo-Anda stated that the latest signature campaign that they launched is gaining ground and is still going on.
“Right now, we already have more than 3,000 signatories and so far, the campaign both on the ground and online is still on,” she said.
Mayo-Anda also emphasized the call which was made by residents who were directly affected by the floods, adding that this is the time to take a look back at what had transpired.
“What we heard are the voices of the community – the IPs, women, youth, a church leader and an expert. That’s why we are calling on the concnerned agencies – DENR, Mines and Geosciences Bureau Biodiversity Management Bureau to impose a moratorium on mining operations. And the Provincial Mining and Regulatory Board (PMRB), moratorium on quarry,” she said.
She also said the upcoming assessment and survey to be conducted by MGB should be transparent and inclusive.
“We strongly urge the provincial board to pass a resolution imposing a moratorium or requesting the DENR and other government agencies to impose a moratorium pending the conduct of assessments. The committee on environment should take note of that,” she said, recalling a recommendation they made during the Usapang Palawan summit held in August 2022.