MAC: Mines and Communities

Environmentalists Assail Rapu-rapu Mine Re-opening

Published by MAC on 2006-06-15
Source: Malaya News ()

Environmentalists assail Rapu-Rapu mine re-opening

Malaya News

15th June 2006

ENVIRONMENTAL groups yesterday stormed the main office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Quezon City over its decision Tuesday to allow mining firm Lafayette Philippines, Inc. to conduct a 30-day test-run of its facilities on Rapu-Rapu island in Albay.

Defend Patrimony, an alliance of anti-large scale mining advocates, pelted the DENR office with rotten tomatoes and spray painted the vicinity with "DENR and Lafayette cohorts and plunderers!"

Greenpeace activists wore head gear resembling whale shark (butanding) to signify the marine life which they said would continue to be threatened by mining on Rapu-Rapu.

The fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya (Pamalakaya) said it will contest the decision of Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes anytime this week through a petition for a temporary restraining order to be filed before an "appropriate" court.

The DENR on Tuesday lifted the cease-and-desist order imposed on Lafayette's operations in December after two mine tailings spills last October.

The DENR order ignored a recommendation of the Rapu-Rapu Fact-Finding Commission (RRFFC) headed by Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes to recall the environmental compliance certificate issued to the mining firm and a moratorium on mining operations on Rapu-Rapu.

Reyes defended the decision, saying it was the "best option" and that the temporary lifting order would be guided by "stringent conditions."

Defend Patrimony spokeswoman Trixie Concepcion said Reyes' decision was inconsistent and biased in favor of foreign interest.

"His decision shows how incapable he is in managing our resources and protecting our environment," she said.

Concepcion said the DENR has in fact said that "Lafayette project does not appear to measure up to the standards of responsible mining" and that the DENR found the company guilty of operational and management lapses.

Greenpeace Southeast Asia Campaign Director Von Hernandez said President Arroyo must reverse the decision and heed the recommendations of the RRFFC which she created.

Greenpeace said the waters of the Albay Gulf where Rapu Rapu is located is a high priority site for sea turtle conservation, being home to five out of the seven known marine turtle species.

The group said the area is also an acknowledged migration path for whale sharks which are often sighted by local fishermen.

Pamalakaya said the 30-day test run would be challenged "not only in the parliament of the streets and in the court of public opinion, but also in any appropriate court."

"Secretary Reyes' penchant for environmental tragedy and unparalleled puppetry to mining giants is displayed with his latest decision. The test-run officially announces the unwarranted comeback of a destroying giant," said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap.

Malacañang backed the decision of Reyes.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said Reyes' decision was "sound" and will lead to a "win-win" situation.

"We are confident that the DENR will closely scrutinize the test-run by Lafayette to enable the government to come up with a more definitive decision on this issue under the standards of full transparency and accountability to all stakeholders," Bunye said.

He said the one-month period is "reasonable." - Reinir Padua, Regina Bengco and Czeriza Valencia

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