DAVAO CITY – Environmental group advocates condemned the “violent and illegal arrest” of protesters who formed a barricade in four mining operations in the town of Sta. Cruz, Zambales province on Sunday, February 7.
“We condemn the violence inflicted by the Philippine National Police (PNP) upon the people of Sta. Cruz to pacify their just demands against the destructive mining operations in Zambales,” Clemente Bautista, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) national coordinator, said.
Over the weekend, residents of Bayto village in Sta. Cruz barricaded the roads in the area to prevent the passage of the miners’ trucks that carried the extracted soil.
This paralyzed the operations of Zambales Diversified Mining Corp. (ZDMC), Filipinas Mining (LAMI), Benguet Nickel Mining Inc., and Eramen Minerals Corp, said Bautista in a statement Tuesday, February 9.
The barricade, however, turned hostile when police arrested of two protesters while injuring others, said Bautista.
Protesters mounted improvised barriers on the roads to stop the trucks of mining firms as they claim these companies should no longer be mining in the said area.
In April 2015, mining sites in Sta. Cruz were suspended due to violations of environmental standards, but eventually resumed operations in three months after having supposedly complied with regulations of authorities, said Bautista.
Their compliance, however, go against a fact finding mission conducted by non-government organization Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines (CEC) in 2015.
The mission reported sediments flowing from the excavation sites due to strong rains brought by typhoon Lando. The disaster affected more than 13,790 families, resulted in four casualties, and incurred massive damages to livelihood.
CEC noted that approximately more than 1,000 hectares of vegetation have already been cleared due to mining operations.
He added that the temporary suspension orders were stop-gap measures that did not give a permanent solution to the consistent violations of environmental and health laws perpetrated by the mining firms.
“Mining operations in Zambales have caused chronic water, air, and noise pollution to communities in proximity to their operations and roads. They have worsened the destruction brought by Typhoon Lando in October last year, where locals witnessed red mud flows from the denuded mountains flooding their homes and rice fields,” he said.
As this develop, Bautista said they are urging the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) to permanently close down repeat offenders who harm local communities and the environment. (davaotoday.com)