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Protestors want Lafayette out of Albay

Published by MAC on 2005-12-31

Protestors want Lafayette out of Albay

by Bobby Labalan, Gil Francis Arevalo, Philippine Daily Inquirer / RAPU-RAPU, ALBAY

31st December 2005

Anti-mining protesters braved strong winds, rain and the rough seas of the Pacific Ocean to demonstrate their strong opposition to the continued operation of the Lafayette Mining Corp. here.

Packed in huge motor launches, the protesters - composed of fishermen, women, students, senior citizens, church people, members of progressive organizations, local officials, teachers, media men and even children- departed at 7 a.m. Wednesday from three assembly points at Barangay Manlabong, Prieto Diaz, Poblacion, Bacon and Sorsogon City and Barangay Poblacion here.

After an hour and a half of dizzying travel, the placard- and streamer-bearing demonstrators gathered at the sea in front of the seaport being operated by Lafayette.

They took turns assailing the company, which was being blamed for the toxic contamination that caused fish kills and triggered a fish scare in Albay and Sorsogon.

Rogelio Corpuz, general manager for operations of Lafayette Polymetallic Inc., told the Inquirer that they welcomed the challenge posed by the rallyists.

"They must weigh and consider that we're under the laws and recommendations imposed on us by the government through the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the Environmental Management Bureau. We're working and responding to this issue in accordance with the law," he said.

"Right now, operations are still suspended and we're also waiting for the final study or findings of the independent monitoring team formed by the MGB," Corpuz said.

Councillor Alex de la Cruz and Fr. Lino Bugaoisan, known demonstrators from Rapu-Rapu, Albay, bared sad stories of families who now could barely afford to have three meals a day as there were no buyers of fish caught around the island.

De la Cruz said they were considering declaring a state of calamity so that the local government could use its calamity fund to help more than 60 percent of the population affected by the fish scare.

Mayor Benito Doma of Prieto Diaz, who initiated the move together with Sorsogon City Mayor Sally Lee, said a bigger "fluvial protest" was being worked out to reiterate their opposition to the continued operations of the Australian-based multinational.

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