Philippines: Possible water contamination, fish kill in Rapu-rapu, residents report

Jun. 01, 2007

MANILA — Environmental activists and local residents of Rapu-rapu, Albay reported that there is a possible water contamination in the creeks and coastal waters surrounding the Lafayette mining area.

Mr. Antonio Casitas, a Rapurapu resident and leader of the Sagip Isla Sagip Kapwa, a local organization opposing the operation of Lafayette, reported that for two weeks now foul odor coming from creeks nearby the mining area in Brgy. Poblacion were observed by the residents.

“Umabot na ang baho na nagmumula sa ilog sa Poblacion, tingin naming posibleng may tumagas o pinakawalan tubig mula sa Lafayette,” Mr. Casitas said. (The stench coming from the river in Poblacion has reached [us], we think that Lafayette spilled or released this foul water from their site)

The residents also reported that marine life such as small fish, star fish and shells were found floating or dead in the coastal areas.

“Maraming nagsilutang na patay na isda at starfish. Dulot na siguro ito noong polusyon na nanggaling sa mga creek,” Casitas said. (Many dead fish and starfish were found floating in the water. This may be caused the pollution coming from the creek).

Kalikasan (People’s Network for the Environment) immediately called on the government to investigate the reported incident. As of now, the Bicol Regional Mines and Geoscience Bureau (MGB) of the DENR has no report of the incident or explanation for the sudden death of marine species in the area.

“In the mine spills and water contamination done by Lafayette in October 2005, the incidents were reported on time and Lafayette initially denied the incident. The government should first put the safety and welfare of the local residents and the environment in the island, they should stop the operation of Lafayette and launch a full investigation now before a tragedy happens again,” Kalikasan PNE National Coordinator Clemente Bautista said.

Last week, Lafayette announced that it will temporarily halt its operation for eight days in early June to fix its mining equipment, particularly the semi-autogenous grinding (SAG) mill. Based on the report of Lafayette, the said SAG mill was bought second-hand from Colorado, USA.

“The DENR should also investigate and explain the real reason why Lafayette is stopping its operations this June. This could be related to the alleged contamination which may lead to the ‘nervousness’ of Lafayette stockholders which are now selling their shares from the company. Lafayette stock value is way below compared to its price before February this year. They may have smelled something wrong in Lafayette operation,” Bautista said.

Since the end of April, Lafayette stock value decreased almost by 20% on the Australian Stock Exchange. The current price ($A0.0700) of Lafayette stock is almost 46% lower to its previous highest price ($A0.1300) this year.

Meanwhile, the Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC), an environmental research NGO, says that they will raise different social and environmental issues in their lobbying in Australia with stockholders and bank financiers of Lafayette.

“Since the operation of Lafayette in Rapu-rapu Island, the local people have not only experienced environmental woes but economic dislocation as well. Studies conducted by Ibon Foundation and government-sponsored Rapu-rapu Fact-Finding Commission revealed that among the major of the negative impacts of Lafayette operation is the drastic decrease of the productivity and income of fishermen and farmers in the island. Also, militarization and human rights violations are on the rise as a as a result of sudden increase of military and private security forces in the island as deployed and hired by the government and Lafayette, respectively,” said. Frances Quimpo, Executive Director of CEC.

Ms. Quimpo and Mr. Casitas will do international lobbying in Australia starting next week to advocate and gain support for campaign to close of Lafayette mining project in the Philippines.###

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