MAC: Mines and Communities

DENR nod on resumption of LPI's operations hit

Published by MAC on 2006-06-15
Source: Daily Tribune ()

DENR nod on resumption of LPI's operations hit

Daily Tribune

15th June 2006

A senior member of the Catholic Church yesterday blasted the Arroyo government and chided the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for allowing Lafayette Philippines Inc. (LPI) to do a test run of its zinc and copper mining operations.

Sorsogon bishop Arturo Bastes in expressing dismay over the DENR decision, said the LPI and the DENR are no doubt "partners in crime" because despite opposition and the recommendation submitted by the Rapu-Rapu fact-finding committee (RFFCC) which he headed, DENR Secretary Angelo Reyes still allowed the Australian mining firm to do a test-run.

"I'm really disappointed and worried about what happened," Bastes said, noting that the DENR disregarded not only the results of their investigation, but more so the "cry of the people" who were affected by the mining spills caused from LPI.

Marvel bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez, chairman of the National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace (NASSA) of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), for his part, said he was not surprised when the DENR permitted LPI to proceed with the test run as there is "large amounts of money involved."

"It's a very difficult decision because money has been going on and this is true worldwide. And they would like to have money at whatever cost and they will use people, abuse them, exploit them and discard them if they are no longer useful," Gutierrez said.

He added "life in the world is controlled by transnational corporations, therefore

multinational companies would do anything to ensure that they stay no matter what the cost."

With Reyes allowing the LPI to push through with its operations, Bastes said "only government officials with questionable intentions agreed to allow the operations."

In its 169-page report submitted to President Arroyo last May 19, the fact-finding committee recommended the cancellation of LPI's environmental compliance certificate (ECC) for being guilty of negligence since it started its operations even despite incomplete environmental protection infrastructures.

Aside from the ECC cancellation, Bastes also recommended a moratorium on mining activities in the province as well as an investigation of the bureau and regional office of the DENR for neglect of duty when it allowed LPI to dispose poisonous chemicals from a dam to creeks and ponds in the province.

Meanwhile, the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said it is set to contest the Reyes' decision anytime this week.

"The 30-day test run granted by the DENR will be challenged not only in the parliament of the streets and in the court of public opinion, but also in any appropriate court. We will file a temporary restraining order (TRO) this week or early next week," Pamalakaya national chairman Fernando Hicap said in a statement.

According to Hicap, the decision of Reyes to reopen Lafayette is tragic, unacceptable and unpardonable.

"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," he added.

"The test-run granted by Reyes is an open declaration of class war against people exploited and devastated by mining giants. It is an open invitation of war also against advocates of genuine national industrialization. This is something the chief of the DENR must regret for the rest of his life as a bureaucrat capitalist in the Arroyo administration," he stressed.

Hicap said their legal counsels are currently discussing the contents of the TRO to be filed against the DENR decision and that their lawyers are expected to finish the document by tomorrow or on Friday.

According to Pamalakaya, it would raise the recommendations of the RRFC and their arguments against the Australian-based mining company as stated in the anti-graft complaint the group and other militant lawmakers filed before the Office of Ombudsman on Feb. 14.

Last June 1, Hicap said Pamalakaya filed a motion for the speedy resolution of its case pending before the Office of the Ombudsman against the owners and operators of Lafayette. The group included Lafayette country manager Rod Watt in the complaint it filed before the quasi-judicial anti-graft court last Feb.14.

Pamalakaya and the fact-finding mission both suggested the closure of LPI, citing violations of 11 out of 29 conditionalities and sub-conditionalities contained in the agreement between the government and the LPI, as well as the cumulative effects and the clear and present danger posed by the firm's continued mining operations in Rapu-Rapu Island pertaining to ecology, health and livelihood of small fishermen.

For its part, the Ibon Foundation said by allowing LPI to resume operations on Rapu-Rapu Island, the Arroyo administration has shown that it values the interests of foreign investors more than the welfare of the people.

DENR justified its decision by claiming that allowing LPI to resume operations would create 900 jobs, P3 billion in government revenues and P5 million a year in project commitments.

But these "benefits" would only last for the life of the mining project, which is estimated to be six to seven years. In exchange, the natural environment of Rapu-Rapu would be seriously damaged and local livelihoods destroyed, the think-tank said.

The mine tailings spills which took place on Oct. 11 and 15, 2005 have already reportedly resulted in fish kills and adversely affected the health of local residents and the marine environment, as well as disrupted the livelihood of host communities, which the DENR itself acknowledged in its assessment.

"The DENR decision is obviously intended to ease the apprehensions of foreign investors wanting to enter into the mining sector, who expressed their concerns after the fact-finding commission recommended a review of the Mining Act of 1995. Marie Surbano and Jun P. Yap

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