“This is the first of continued campaign of Zambales farmers and other sectors against mining operations that continue to destroy the environment and their livelihood. The atmosphere here is intolerable as trucks that carry ores from the mining site are everywhere, they operate full 24 hours a day. It is unbelievable that officials of local government units could allow this,” said Joseph Canlas, Amgl chairperson.
Based on the list of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA), Benguetcorp covers 1,406-hectares, Eramen 4,619-has. (including Candelaria town), Shangfil 449-has., Filipinas 951-has. Farmers shared that mining firms operated majorly at sitios Namlangan, Mabuletok, Sto. Nino, Pao in Brgy. Guisguis while LnL operates in Brgy. Guinabon. Mining at sitio Pao also extends to Brgy. Lomboy.
The activity gathered data on the ill-effects of mining operations that they categorized as effects on environment, livelihood, health and safety. The initial summary of data cited the following:
On environment: the forest at the mountains were totally wiped out; the river died or the people could already not use it, the water is itchy to the skin, fishes and other food sources vanished, it is heavily silted; water from wells are already contaminated and made undrinkable forcing residents to buy purified water; landslides occurred in Brgy. Guisguis and Lomboy, flashfloods also eroded the lots by the river and floods became regular during continuous raining.
On livelihood: rice yield dropped by 30 to 50%, previous yield reaches to 70-100 cavans per hectare which dropped to 50-70 cavans. Rice lands have been polluted with “red soil” especially during rainy season. Rice production is lower during rainy season. Lower production declined their income to sustain their daily needs. Farmers could no longer source the mountain and river for wood, food, cogon and other necessities.
On health: residents who accidentally drink the water from the river or contaminated wells suffer loose bowel movement and those who use it experience skin irritation. People regularly suffer cough and colds, eye irritation, itchiness as dust from trucks scatter around their community and they fear that dust contain nickel deposits. In Brgy. Canaynayan, trucks pass by the school, thus, residents fear health hazard on children.
On safety: people are restless as they are aware of tragedies that took place in different parts of the country caused by mining, logging and other activities that destroy the environment, such as “baka ma-Ormoc kami,” (we could experience like what occurred in Ormoc), “baka matulad kami sa Mindanao,” (what happened in Mindanao could happen here) said by residents, referring to what happened in Ormoc, Leyte in 1991 that killed more than 6,000 people by landslides and flash flood. Residents could not sleep calmly during rains as they stay alert for flash flood. People estimate that 100 to 200 trucks pass by their community thus fearing children could be ran over.
“We also found out that farmers are usually tenants and farmworkers, they cultivate only 1 to 2 hectares and pay about 12 cavans per cropping. A farmer in Brgy. Lomboy cultivate about 1 hectare for 40 years and she is not aware of Marcos’ land reform program PD 27 and neither Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. Seems like the government declared that there are no poor and landless farmers in Sta. Cruz,” Canlas said.
Amgl said that at the 4 barangays covered by the fact-finding mission, they could only document 1 farmer who had a Certificate of Land Transfer (CLT). The farmer is from Brgy. Lomboy.
The summary of data also debunked the mining corporations’ promise of employment as out of 3,500 registered voters in Brgy. Guisguis, only about 300 were employed by mining operations, among 800 registered voters in Brgy. Canaynayan, only 4 were employed, about 70 were employed in Brgy. Guinabon, only 3 in Brgy. Lomboy out of 800 househoulds,
“Mining operations not only threaten the people of Sta. Cruz, but also the whole population of Zambales as Sta. Cruz is considered as the rice granary of the province. If operations continue to destroy rice lands, food security of the province would be destroyed,” Canlas said.
Move Now! – Zambales claimed that almost all of the northern towns of Zambales are with mining operations and corporations have set-up their private ports as conduit to ship out the mineral resources of the province such as in Brgy. Bolitoc, Sta. Cruz set up by Benguetcorp. The group said that major parts of the province are plagued by mining operations such as in northern part for chromite, nickel, central part for magnetite and southern part for copper and gold.
“We also call the attention of Governor Hermogenes Ebdane as his constituents’ rights to land, livelihood and safety are being trampled by mining operations. Mining corporations are also ‘butchering’ the province’ environment,” said Canlas.
“It is very reasonable why Sta. Cruz farmers are demanding the cessation of mining operations in Sta. Cruz, the Central Luzon farmers support their call as mining in Zambales is not only an issue of the people of Zambales and region, but also of the entire country, as it is a plunder of our national patrimony. We have nothing to hope from the Aquino government as the president is a promoter of mining in the country, we call on the people, direct and indirect victims of mining in Zambales to unite and struggle against it,” Canlas said. #