MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Church Officials Recommend Closure of Mining Operations

Published by MAC on 2006-08-14

By Ben Serrano, Caraga Correspondent - Sun Star Cagayan http://www.sunstar.com.ph/static/cag/2006/08/14/news/cagayan.bishop.clergyman.comfort.embattled.priest.html

14th August 2006

TUBAY, Agusan del Norte -- Two Mindanao church officials said they will recommend to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and some government agencies the closure of the mining operations of the three mining firms in five coastal barangays of this coastal town.

Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of the Cagayan de Oro Archdiocese and Monsignor Elmer Abacahin, president of the Diocesan Clergy of Mindanao, reiterated this in an interview with Sun.Star.

Ledesma, vice president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said he will personally bring the matter to the full membership of the CBCP council once it will convene to discuss their official stand on the issue.

Abacahin for his part said he will bring the matter to the 700 membership strong Association of Diocesan Clergy in Mindanao.

Abacahin, social action director of the Diocese of Cagayan in Misamis Oriental, said the group might issue condemnation of the violent dispersal of a prayer rally staged by Tubay parishioners last August 6 of which eight persons were hurt.

Ledesma and Abacahin visited beleaguered Tubay Parish Priest Fr. Jenor P. Luis at the Parish of St. Anne Church here Friday late afternoon.

The two reportedly assured the parish priest and parishioners of the Roman Catholic Church's full support of their campaign to stop what they described as "illegal and immoral" mining activities in said areas.

Abacahin and Fr. Lito Clase, director of the Diocese of Butuan-Agusan Social Action Center, with diocesan workers and officials and selected newsmen went to the coastal Barangays La Fraternidad and Binuangan to investigate.

Last August 6, a police and firemen dispersal team headed by Agusan del Norte Police Provincial Director Jerome Peralta Pagaragan and Tubay Municipal Police Chief Benny Esparagoza broke up a rally by 100 parishioners.

The rally was held at the foot of a mountain, site of an on-going nickel, copper and gold mining operations in Barangay La Fraternidad this town.

Based on police reports, no one was hurt in the dispersal as law enforcers upon written orders of Tubay, Agusan del Norte Mayor Fidel Garcia Jr. dispersed the 200 protesters who allegedly blocked a road leading to the mining site.

But medical certificates issued by private and public health authorities claimed at least eight persons including the parish priest were hurt in the dispersal.

The protestors are said to have suffered bruises and cuts as water cannons hit them and threw them off balance.

The mining activities started in the areas in April this year after the Agusan del Norte Provincial Mining Regulatory Board issued on March small-scale mining operation permits to mine gold, copper and nickel to three firms.

These are the San Roque Metals Inc. and construction firms, Galeo Equipment and San-R Constructions.

On March 2, 2006 the regional office of the Environment and Management Bureau issued an Environment Certificate Compliance approving the mining operations in the area.

This despite the areas being declared by Tubay Municipal and Provincial Governments as protected areas owing to its status as a bird sanctuary.

Local governments obtained a P15 million loan for reforestation from World Bank through Community-based Resource Management Project.

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