Militant fisherfolk group on January 12 staged a protest action against the lifting of the ban on open-pit mining, which the group described as a “major environmental disaster in the making.”
PAMALAKAYA, a network of fisherfolk organizations in the country, said the government’s decision to allow open-pit mining operations will severely affect streams, rivers, seas, and marine biodiversity.
Ronnel Arambulo, national spokesperson of the group, said that in Sta. Cruz town in the province of Zambales, “municipal waters have turned red due to the nickel tailings from open-pit mining operations that started in 2006.”
On December 23, the Environment department released an order repealing the ban issued by the late former environment secretary Regina Paz Lopez in 2017.
The order came eight months after President Rodrigo Duterte signed a directive lifting the 2012 moratorium on new mining deals.
Arambulo said nickel mining operations in Sta. Cruz town that uses the open-pit mining method “adversely affected the livelihood of small fisherfolks because of fish-catch depletion and environmental degradation.”
He said traditional fish species that used to thrive in the municipal waters have already vanished, adding that the contamination because of the mine tailing “also resulted in the death of several reefs that used to be the breeding grounds and habitat of fish.”
“We have been demanding accountability and compensation from the big mining companies responsible for this environmental catastrophe but to no avail,” he added.
Sta. Cruz was one of the most affected towns in the province when mud floods and logs drifted down from the mountains after Typhoon Lando hit the country in October 2015.
Residents blamed the mining firms operating in the area for the devastation.
Last week, the Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc (PMPI) said the lifting of the ban on open-pit mining “is another blow against an already gasping state of our Philippine environment.”
“The lifting of the ban signals yet another flip-flopping of the [environment department], giving high priority to the opening-up of mining operations for income or revenues,” the group said.
PMPI urged Filipinos to support candidates in the 2022 national and local elections “who embrace a green development agenda” and “vote against those who have maligned our environment through their policies, programs, and projects.”