MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Bicolanos, Environmental activists file case against Lafayette, DENR

Published by MAC on 2006-07-19

Bicolanos, Environmental activists file case against Lafayette, DENR

Kalikasan-PNE Press Release

19th July 2006

In a new bid to stop the polymetallic mining project in Rapurapu, residents of the island, Sorsogon and Albay, environmental activist groups, fisher folk organizations, church people, militant organizations and television personalities filed a class suit against Lafayette Philippines, Inc., an Australian mining firm, and DENR Secretary Angelo Reyes today at the Makati Regional Trial Court today.

The suit sought to halt the 30-day test run granted by the DENR Secretary to Lafayette, on June 13, 2006. It similarly petitioned for the permanent injunction of the Lafayette mining operation, as it demanded compensation for the damages the company has done to the environment and the surrounding communities.

"We filed a case because we want to stop the destruction La Fayette is causing in our island, in our environment, our future and our children's future. (Sumama po kami sa pagasampa ng kaso upang mapigilan ang ginagawang pagsira ng Lafayette di lamang sa aming kapaligiran kundi sa aming kinabukasan at ng aming mga anak)," says Nenita Cotorno, a 60-year old grandmother of 7 and a local resident of Rapu-rapu.

Another Bicolana and international Beauty Queen Miriam Quiambao also signed as a petitioner. "It is a shame that people's lives and the environment are being put at risk for the sake of the mining operation. I hope that people in the government will make decisions that will be beneficial to more people than a few. Lives, especially people's lives, are too precious.

Television personalities, musicians and environmentalists like Chin-chin Gutierrez, Gary Granada, Chickoy Pura and Roy Alvarez are also petitioners of the suit.

"We are not against mining per se. We are against how mining is being done in this country, without regard to people, without regard to the environment, and the country's future. The present situation is barely enough for economic, social and cultural sustainability of the present generation. Why should people and the environment always have to pay the cost to benefit a few?" averred Chin-chin Gutierrez.

"The petitioners, who are both residents and non-residents of Rapurapu, share a common concern for the environmental, economic and health-related problems caused by the mining operations in the island. They are invoking their constitutionally guaranteed right to a balanced and healthful ecology as well as their right to health," explains Atty. Howard Calleja, one of the lawyers who filed the case.

"The most compelling reason to restrain Lafayette's mining operation is the occurrence of acid mine drainage (AMD). This environmental concern is something that even the DENR admits Lafayette could not control," added Calleja. "Rapurapu should be immediately rehabilitated. The acid mine drainage and its effects in the island should be addressed, not exacerbated by allowing the island to be mined further by Lafayette," said Frances Quimpo of the Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines.

"It is very difficult to understand how the government can allow Lafayette to continue mining when it has already seen how Lafayette violated our laws, cheated the government of taxes, undermined the safety of the communities, and caused irreversible damages to our environment," pointed out Antonio Casetas, Head Servant of Sagip Isla, Sagip Kapwa, an island-wide environmental organization in Rapurapu.

"We have remained vigilant and have continued to protest in the streets, in spite the fact that the island is now being militarized, because this is the only way we can express our position. Our once peaceful island is not only being destroyed, it is now wrapped in apprehension and fear. We hope Lafayette and the government will let us be, " averred Ariel, leader of Lambat-Bicol, a fisherfok federation in the Bicol region.

Meanwhile, Defend Patrimony Spokesperson Trixie Concepcion asserted that Lafayette's operations in Rapu-rapu are still rife with irregularities, including under-declared revenues and falsification of public documents. "We are asking the Court to stop what DENR itself further affirmed as a grossly unfavorable mining project to the government," adds Concepcion. "The mining issue in Rapu-Rapu is a matter of public interest in view of the environmental hazards and adverse health impacts that Lafayette mining operation poses. The people of Sorsogon are supporting the class suit, and we hope we can get justice," says Bishop Aruturo Bastes who headed the defunct Rapu-rapu Fact-Finding Commission.

"We do not trust that the Arroyo Administration, including the DENR, will heed our demands. She has after all already demonstrated her bias for the Australian mining firm and has intransigently clung to her mining liberalization policy to protect the interest of foreign transnational mining," said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of the environmental activist group Kalikasan-PNE. "This class suit is a fight not only against Lafayette but also a fight in defense of our patrimony," added Bautista.

Reference:

CLEMENTE BAUTISTA
Kalikasan-People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE)
No.26 Matulungin St. Bgy, Central, Quezon City, Philippines 1100
Tel. No. +63-2-9248756
Fax No. +63-2-9209099
Email: kalikasan.pne@gmail.com

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