MAC: Mines and Communities

Pamalakaya Hits Neda Chief For 'condoning' Lafayette Spill

Published by MAC on 2006-05-21
Source: The Nation

Pamalakaya hits Neda chief for 'condoning' Lafayette spill

The Nation

21st May 2006

A group of anti-mining activists yesterday denounced Economic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri over his pro-mining pronouncements, which they said was timed to counter the report of the commission created by Malacañang to look into the effects of the twin mine spills that occurred off Rapu-Rapu Island in Albay last year.

"That is blasphemous, immoral and incorrigible. The President (Arroyo) and her men are playing dirty politics and sheer syndicate games to offset the report of the fact-finding mission led by Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes that recommends to Mrs. Arroyo the permanent closure of Lafayette's mining operations. This is a national foul play, with the good bishop as the victim of this rabid pro-mining clique in Malacañang," the militant group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya (Pamalakaya) said in a statement.

"They want to embarrass and even ridicule Bishop Bastes and counter his anti-mining report. That is the purpose of Neri coming out from nowhere and openly endorsing mining activities," Pamalakaya national chairman Fernando Hicap said.

The militant leader defended Bishop Bastes and the commission's report recommending the permanent closure of Lafayette Philippines Inc. which was accused of dumping toxic substances off Rapu-Rapu waters last year that caused environmental destruction, health hazards and death of marine life.

"The Gospel of Bishop Bastes against Rapu-Rapu is well accepted by the people, morally, scientifically and politically speaking. But the government wants to downplay this pro-people crusade by allowing Neri to wage a Palace battle in favor of transnational mining clients," Hicap added.

He noted while the Rapu-Rapu Fact Finding Commission (RRFFC) presented its report recommending the permanent cancellation of the permit granted to Lafayette, Neri issued his own statement to counter the commission's report and assure the Arroyo administration's support to mining.

The National Economic Development Authority (Neda) chief said the government expects between $5 billion to $7 billion from mining annually or total revenues of between $17 to 23 billion over the next six years. Neri added the mining industry could produce 240,000 jobs for the said period.

"Neri wants to downplay the impact of the Rapu-Rapu commission on Lafayette by issuing this propaganda sanctioned by Mrs. Arroyo and the top mining clients of Malacañang," Pamalakaya said.

"The bishops have no choice but to use their powerful pulpit to counter this pro-mining propaganda offensive of Malacañang," Pamalakaya said.Malacañang, for its part, yesterday expressed assurance that the report and recommendations of the Rapu-Rapu Fact Finding Commission on the mining operations of Lafayette Philippines Inc. will be reviewed and considered. At the same time, Press Secretary and presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye reiterated the government's commitment to support responsible mining operations as a means of propelling the country's economic growth.

"We thank the Rapu-Rapu Fact Finding Commission for its work and assure the public that its report will be carefully reviewed and considered," Bunye said in a statement.

He stressed "mining remains a priority area for development" of the Arroyo administration. "Our country is blessed as one of the most highly-mineralized countries in the world. It would be a disservice to our people if our mineral potential is not realized as this is clearly a source of employment and development," he said.
The commission was created by Mrs. Arroyo last March under Executive Order 145 to "investigate the effects of the mining operations of Lafayette Philippines Inc. on people's health and environmental safety" in Rapu-Rapu.

The commission, headed by Bastes, submitted its report to the President on Friday.

Among other recommendations, the commission called for a moratorium on mining and suspension of Minerals Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) on Rapu-Rapu Island "pending scientific and experts' favorable resolution of the issue of ecological conservation."

The report also recommended a review of the Mining Act of 1995 or Republic Act 7942, particularly the provisions on "the ownership and management of mining firms and operations."

In reiterating Malacañang's support for responsible mining, Bunye said "a ban on mining is not the answer but the standards and safeguards already in place and existing laws must be strictly enforced."

Earlier, Socio-economic Planning Secretary and Neda director general Romulo Neri said the government could derive huge benefits from the lucrative mining sector, particularly in terms of more foreign investments, additional jobs and poverty reduction in rural areas where there are mining operations.

Jun P. Yap with PNA

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