MAC: Mines and Communities

In Aftermath Of Typhoon "reming"

Published by MAC on 2006-12-24
Source: Bulatlat ()

In aftermath of typhoon ‘Reming’:

By Bulatlat, Vol. VI, No. 43

December 3 - 9, 2006

Bigger Disasters Coming, Environmental Groups Warn

Two environmental groups in the Philippines have raised the alarm on what they described as “impending disasters” in the aftermath of supertyphoon “Reming,” which hit the archipelago – particularly the southern part of its biggest island Luzon – over the weekend. Greenpeace-Southeast Asia warned of “more violent weather events around the world” as a result of climate change, while the Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) voiced fears that another mine spill may have taken place or could take place in Rapu-Rapu, Albay.

Two environmental groups in the Philippines have raised the alarm on what they described as “impending disasters” in the aftermath of supertyphoon “Reming,” which hit the archipelago – particularly the southern part of its biggest island Luzon – over the weekend.

Reports reaching Bulatlat at press time said “Reming” has claimed a total of 388 lives. It wrought the greatest damage on Marinduque, the Mindoro provinces, and the Bicol Region, the reports further show.

Reming is the latest in the series of deadly and destructive tropical cyclones to ravage the Philippines in recent years. The typhoon brought 466 millimeters of rainfall, the highest in 40 years. Reming is also the third super-typhoon this year – a first in Philippine history – and the fourth major typhoon in as many months.

Typhoon Milenyo (international code name Xangsane), struck the country in September, causing more than P3 billion in damages and leaving more than a hundred casualties. Supertyphoons Paeng (Cimaron) and Queenie (Chebi) followed in October and November, both adding millions of pesos more to the damages already wrought by Milenyo.

Greenpeace-Southeast Asia warned of “more violent weather events around the world” as a result of climate change, while the Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) voiced fears that another mine spill may have taken place or could take place in Rapu-Rapu, Albay.

Climate change

In a Dec. 2 statement, Greenpeace Southeast Asia warned that the damage wrought by “Reming” could be a portent of more devastating events resulting from climate change.

“The tragic loss of lives and the massive destruction of properties brought about by the super-typhoon deserve immediate attention and sympathy from the international community,” said Abigail Jabines, climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia. “It should also serve as a wake-up call about the need for governments to find ways to avert or mitigate the catastrophic impacts of extreme weather events which scientists predict could become more severe because of climate change. We are calling on governments worldwide to act decisively and urgently on climate change because it is poor countries like the Philippines who bear much of the brunt from such climate impacts.”

Residents evacuate from a village in Legaspi City, Albay that was buried in mud from the onslaught of typhoon “Reming.” (AFP/HO/George de Jesus) Scientists say that as global temperatures rise, the intensity of extreme weather events is likely to increase, and it is possible that in the future the impact of these events will become even greater.

Research by Dr. Leoncio Amadore, one of the Philippines’ foremost meteorologists, showed that the Philippine archipelago has already suffered severely from extreme weather events. His report “Crisis or Opportunity: Climate Change Impacts and the Philippines,” indicates that from 1975 to 2002, intensifying tropical cyclones caused an annual average of 593 deaths and damage to property of 4.5 billion pesos (around US$ 83 million), including damage to agriculture of 3 billion pesos (around US$ 55 million).

“The combination of strong typhoons, excessive precipitation and landslides has caused a great deal of death and destruction in the Philippines. If we do not act urgently, climate change will further intensify the severity of extreme weather events,” said Amadore.

Another mine spill?

The Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) voiced fears that another mine spill may have taken place or could take place in Rapu-Rapu, Albay while Greenpeace Southeast Asia warned of “more violent weather events around the world” as a result of climate change.

In a Dec. 2 statement, the Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) called for the “immediate and permanent termination” of Lafayette’s operations in Rapu-Rapu, Albay after the Australian mining company reported sustaining structural damage in the wake of the supertyphoon. Reports are rife that Lafayette had interrupted its operations and stock trading activities because of the severe structural damage it suffered.

“We fear that another serious mine spill may have occurred – or will be occurring –due to the structural damage sustained by Lafayette after typhoon ‘Reming’ hit,” said Kalikasan-PNE national coordinator Clemente Bautista, Jr. “Lafayette and the DENR should immediately disclose the full extent of damage sustained and should take this as a sign to close shop in Rapu-Rapu for good.”

“The serious fact that the mine had to again stop operations and even halted its stocks trading only indicates that the Lafayette mine facility is not structurally sound,” Bautista added. “This supports the Bastes Commission report citing scientific findings by Dr. Arthur Zaldivar-Sali, a technical expert on dam design, who noted that the Lafayette dam was under-designed in the light of Philippine rainfall conditions, especially in high-risk areas along the typhoon belt such as Bicol. The DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) should finally comply with the Bastes Commission's recommendations that Lafayette should have its environmental clearance certificate cancelled and should stop operations immediately, and impose a mining moratorium in Rapu-Rapu.”

Lafayette, in various statements released to the media, had cited excessive rainfall as one of the causes of the two mine spills that occurred in Rapu-Rapu last year. The company also cited typhoon “Milenyo” as having damaged its facilities last October – leading to a stoppage of its operations.

“Lafayette’s Rapu-rapu mine cannot clearly hold its ground against the typhoons which are a regular scourge in the Bicol region,” Bautista said. “Neither has it been able to publicly disclose and defend any proposed preventive strategy to control the larger threat of acid mine drainages. These failures validate the inability of Lafayette to safely operate and merit its immediate pull-out from Rapu-Rapu.”

“There will be no letup of environmental woes for Bicolanos if Lafayette is allowed to continue with its destructive commercial operations,” the Kalikasan-PNE leader added. “Lafayette Phils. Inc’s expected resumption of commercial operations will only bring about more tragedies to the Bicol region after typhoon ‘Reming’ and the mudflows that buried entire villages in Legaspi and Daraga.”

“The government cannot prevent destructive typhoons such as ‘Milenyo’ and ‘Reming’ from wreaking damage on the nation because these are inevitable and natural occurrences,” Bautista further said. “But it can prevent destructive foreign mining projects such as that of Lafayette from devastating the environment and people’s lives.”

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