Drive launched vs mining in Guimaras

By Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
Visayas Bureau
First Posted 19:25:00 09/27/2008

ILOILO CITY — GUIMARAS RESIDENTS AND OFFICIALS have launched a signature campaign against applications for large-scale mining on the island-province.

Led by Church groups and officials, the campaign coupled with an education drive in villages seeks to pressure government agencies to disapprove mining operations on the island that still has to recover from the massive oil spill two years ago.

Guimaras Gov. Felipe Nava said they would continue their campaign against mining applications even though the Department of Environment and Natural Resources had already said it would consider the stand and sentiments of the residents when they evaluate the mining applications.

“There is still no guarantee that mining applications will not be approved and that efforts of mining companies to come in and operate will stop. We will never rest until this is clear,” Nava told the Inquirer at the sidelines of a multi-sectoral assembly on large-scale mining held in Jordan, Guimaras, on Friday.

The assembly was attended by leaders of local governments, religious groups, nongovernment groups and people’s organizations.

Nava said three applications for mining covered 65 percent of the island or around 37,000 hectares. The mining applications were for areas located in 22 villages in Nueva Valencia town, 13 in Sibunag, 12 in San Lorenzo, six in Buenavista and five in the capital town of Jordan.

The Fil-Asian Strategic Resources and Properties Corp., a subsidiary of the Australia-based Rusina Mining NL, has exploration plans for gold and copper deposits in a 2,400-hectare area covering nine of the 20 villages of Nueva Valencia.

Its application included the villages of Napandong, Sto. Domingo, Lucmayan, San Roque, Salvacion, La Paz, Cabalagnan, Canhawan and Igdarapdap.

Nava said they would step up their advocacy against mining operations even if the DENR does not approve the applications.

“We cannot let our guard down. We have to be vigilant,” he said.

Fr. Jose Manuel Escanlar, parish priest of Jordan, said they were standing by the pastoral letter of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines against mining.

“These will destroy the whole island,” said Escanlar who was among the Church leaders who attended the assembly.

Fr. Remy Barredo, of the Sibunag parish of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, said he also opposed the mining applications because these will threaten communities.

“We do not oppose development but these should not be at the cost of losing our resources,” said Pepito Jose Cerrillo, a director of the Jordan Motorboat association.

Fr. Maloney Gotera, parish priest of Nueva Valencia, said lessons should be learned from communities that were destroyed by mining operations.

Provincial environment officer Gualberto Galia and health officer Dr. Felicito Lozarita also warned that mining operations could pollute water sources and lead to mercury poisoning.

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