MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Environmentalists Ask For Fair Media Coverage Of Albay Spill, Luzon

Published by MAC on 2006-11-01
Source: Inquirer Southern Luzon

Environmentalists ask for fair media coverage of Albay spill

By Ephraim Aguilar, Inquirer -

1st November 2006

LEGAZPI CITY -- Leaders of various anti-mining groups under the Save Rapu-Rapu Alliance (SARA) appealed for balanced media coverage of the mining situation in Albay as they marked the first anniversary of the October 31, 2005 mining spill caused by the operation of the Lafayette Philippines Inc. (LPI) in the province.

Fr. Fedelino Bugauisan, assistant parish priest of the Sta. Florentina Parish in Rapu-Rapu and spokesperson of the Anti-Lafayette Mining Alliance, said media reports regarding the toxic spill in Rapu-Rapu tended to be biased in favor of LPI.

Members of SARA met on Monday in a forum at the Aquinas University and held a symbolic march to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) here to mark the first anniversary of the mining disaster.

The environmentalists urged the DENR and the Mining and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) to produce the results of the test run the government did on LPI operations. Aquinas Vice Rector for Administration Virgilio Perdigon Jr. said he received reports that LPI would resume operations on Nov. 8 but local officials had not been informed of the results of the test run.

Lawyer Julito Sarmiento, LPI corporate secretary, said results of the 90-day extended test run had not been released as it will end November 7. He expressed confidence DENR will lift the suspension order on Lafayette and allow it to resume full operations.

The lawyer said the mining company spent P700 million to P800 million to ensure ecologically safe mining operations.

Lawyer Howie Calleja, SARA's legal counsel, said LPI was facing a suit for possible violations of the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) and the Financial Technical Assistance Agreement issued by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).

An MPSA is an agreement wherein the government shares in the production of the contractor, whether in kind or in value, as owner of the minerals, subject to the requirements of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and other existing mineral policies in the country.

The new case would be the second filed by SARA against LPI this year.

Sarmiento, LPI corporate secretary, said he was not aware of a new case that would be filed by the anti-mining groups, but he said they were ready to face all cases.

Albay Representative Joey Salceda, who was also present in the forum, warned LPI of possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Business Practices Act. Salceda said that under the law, multinational corporations like LPI should adhere to the laws of the host country and respect the local culture, values and rights of the community.

Sarmiento, however, said in a mobile phone interview, that LPI, under its new Filipino-Bicolano management, has appointed a compliance officer to make sure its mining operations do not violate any Philippine laws. But he urged the anti-mining groups not to rush to judgment. "It's one thing to allege but it's another thing to convict," he said.

Inquirer Southern Luzon

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