MAC: Mines and Communities

Bishops' help to be sought versus Colet

Published by MAC on 2006-11-23

Bishops' help to be sought versus Colet

By Erwin Ambo S. Delilan, Sun Star Bacolod

23rd November 2006

DETERMINED to stop Colet Mining from its ongoing exploration and from operating in their area in 2008, farmers from Barangay Manlocahoc, Sipalay City have decided to ask the help of the Roman Catholic bishops in Negros.

Greg Ratin, secretary general of Defend Patrimony, an anti-mining group in Negros, said that they will seek audience with Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra, Kabankalan Bishop Patricio Buzon, San Carlos Bishop Jose Advincula and Dumaguete Bishop John Du.

"We will lay down everything to these good bishops, including the possibilities that may happen in Sipalay City and in nearby places should Colet start its operations," Ratin said.

The group will also inform the four bishops of the "disastrous effects" reportedly brought about by the previous mining operation of the Maricalum Mining Corp. and the Philex Gold Philippines to the environment.

"Some may tag us as a voice in the wilderness but that won't stop us from standing by our cause against Colet. Not until they stop their exploration and proposed operation. That's why we are hopeful that our four bishops will help us in our noble crusade," he added.

Sun.Star Bacolod called but failed to contact any of the four bishops yesterday. A staff from the Bishop's Palace in Bacolod said that they are still in a retreat seminar as of press time.

At the Provincial Board, Environment Committee Chairman Reynaldo Depasucat said he will echo the sentiments of the Manlocahoc farmers to his colleagues. Depasucat led the special hearing regarding this matter Tuesday morning.

The farmers told Depasucat that more than 10 hectares of farmland planted with rice, bananas, camote and coconut trees, were buried by landslides since Colet started its exploration in the upper Manlocahoc area in the middle of last year.

Farmer Miguel Villaplaza said that the biggest landslide occured in Sitio Lipanto, about five kilometers from the upper Manlocahoc, during the onslaught of typhoon "Milenyo" last month.

Villaplaza also claimed that the landslide caused heavy siltation in the Sipalay river.

Asked for his reaction on Mayor Oscar Montilla's statement denying their claims of landslide and soil erosion, Villaplaza dared the mayor to visit the place to see the extent of damage caused by the landslide.

"He (Montilla) doesn't know about the landslide because he has not visited us there," Villaplaza said.

Expected damage

Depasucat said that based on the Environmental Impact Assessment (IAE) conducted in Manlocahoc last Nov.11, about a hundred hectares of riceland, including the underground potable water, maybe affected by the Colet mining operations. Also projected to be affected are sitios Lipanto, Dun-i, Binikawan and Caiwanan in Manlocahoc.

The board member, however, said that since the Province has already given Colet the necessary permits, he can only propose for the creation of a local mining monitoring board in the province.

Depasucat said that this board will be composed of the local stakeholders and the representatives of the Province, the City of Sipalay and the Barangay Manlocahoc Council.

Its main task is to ensure that Colet will follow all the rules and regulations for a responsible mining.

On the other hand, Bayan Muna Spokesman Felipe Gelle, said that the Provincial Council still has the vital role in the issuance of an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) for Colet.

"If the (Provincial Board) won't endorse Colet, then it could become a basis for the DENR to refuse the application for an ECC," Gelle said. Employment

Mayor Montilla however said that stopping Colet will mean depriving thousands of unemployed Sipalaynons of job opportunities.

He added that if the government and the church will listen to the "baseless and unfounded allegations of some people whose interest is against mining, then nothing will happen in our desire to improve people's lives in Negros."

Montilla belied reports that Colet will cause damage to their environment and hinder their quest of promoting Sipalay as the next Boracay in the country. "Colet is not stupid not to abide by the rules and regulations for responsible mining else they will be stopped in the middle of their operations," the mayor stressed.

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