IIIPublished by MAC on 2001-05-01
THE SIBUTAD PEOPLE’S SITUATION WITH PHILEX MINING OPERATION
There was a poster published by the Kinaiyahan Foundation, Incorporated of Davao City entitled "Mao ba Kini?" wherein pictures of open pit mining in Antamok, Itogon, Benguet is shown. That is exactly the same sight one can see in Libay. There one can see the eroded soils and where it goes down. The hills have not only become bald; it is becoming a wasteland. The siltation has reached sitio Looc in Libay and along the shorelines of Calube. There are fears that it will go as far as the island of Sinipay and even in Panganuran
Also in Looc, the once fertile and arable ricefield is now covered with the waste from the dam. For now it is a veritable badland since there is no agricultural use. In the port of Libay, where people used to take their swimming, along the shoreline the mud is already knee deep. Not only is it difficult to get clams and seashells but nobody dares to get them anymore for the agonizing work and the fear that it may be contaminated with cyanide. Different organizations have found about this chemical contamination resulting to environmental destruction.
- Mercury Contamination:
- Cyanide Contamination:
- Fish Kills and Blindness
- Heavy Siltation
- Loss of Drinking Water
- Flash flood and Mudflow
Philex Mining denies any involvement in mercury contamination in the bay, since the company has not been using that kind of chemical for gold processing. The company attributed this event to the small-scale miners through their Environmental Impact Statement page 72 conducted by BHP in 1993 as quoted by the report of Marine Biologist of University of San Carlos.
But the result of a study conducted by marine biologists based in the University of San Carlos, Cebu City, Leonila Adarna and Victoria Napisa, in September 27,1997, showed a higher mercury concentration in the sediments in the site close to where Philex mining is operating.
The report further explained that "While it is true that small miners and their gold mining operations contribute to the mercury contamination of the waters in Murcielagos Bay, the contamination from Philex Mining operation by no means more massive and could be irreversible aside from the social impact it brings." Mercury is a natural element included in the rock sediments, and the more you excavate, more contamination it may bring. They added, in the Philippines and elsewhere experiences have shown that almost all of the water bodies where there are large-scale mining operations (e.g. Honda Bay, Palawan, Calancan Bay Marcopper Mining Corporation) are virtually contaminated with mercury after years of operation.
The shellfish in Murciellagos Bay exceeded the tolerable limit of mercury contamination as reported by the investigating team of DENR central office, which quoted a report of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Manila. DENR report page 11.
Along the shoreline and in the creeks near the mining site, it seems that there is an increase in mercury concentration in these bodies of water as per report from the two marine biologists would suggest.
TABLE 1: Areas tested and concentrated of mercury of murceilagos bay, Sibutad, Zamboanga del Norte.
MERCURY (ug Hg/g)
Barangay Sinipay Is
Barangay Sinipay Is
Sitio Looc Libay
Source: Report from Water Laboratory of University of San Carlos, Cebu City, entitled Mercury concentrations in the sediments and biota from selected sites of Murceilagos Bay, Zamboanga del Norte Page 5, September 27, 1997
The Save Nature Society (SNS), a member of DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues (DCMI), through their research team surveyed the coastal barangays of Baliangao, Sapang Dalaga, Misamis Occidental, and Rizal and Sibutad, Zamboanga del Norte. They established sampling stations. They took samples from the areas suspected to be sources of mercury and cyanide contamination. They took samples particularly in the outlet jointly close to the ball mills of the small-scale miners in Barangay Calube. They also took samples from Libay below where Philex mining is operating above.
SNS collected 100 ml of water at the Philex mining creek, and submitted to the Cyanide Detection Test (CDT) Laboratory Network of Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources on February 24, 1999. The result of the test was positive for presence of Cyanide. The result is certified true and correct by Melessa G. Melchor, CDT Chemist, and noted by Benita E. Manipula, Assistant Laboratory Director.
The people of Sibutad and its neighboring places have unconsciously suffered the presence of cyanide contamination from 1998 up to this year. See table 2.
The 1998 to 1999 Cyanide Contamination in the coastal area of Sibutad, Zamboanga del Norte and all over Murceilagos Bay.
Positive for presence of Cyanide
Positive for presence of Cyanide
Positive for presence of Cyanide
Source: From the report of Save Nature Society (SNS) with the certification of Laboratory Network, Cyanide Detection Test (CDT) of Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.
The Philex Mining Company has to deny their involvement of cyanide contamination in the coastal area of Sibutad and all over the murceilagos bay, but they can not be discounted for contamination, since they are using cyanide in extracting gold from ore. See table 3.
Areas were tested, contaminated and uncontaminated of Cyanide.
Philex Mining Creek
Positive for presence of cyanide
Sitio Lalab - I
Small Scales Miner’s Creek
Philex Mining Creek A, Lalab Libay, Sibutad, Z.N.
Positive for presence of Cyanide
Philex Mining Creek B. Lalab
Positive for presence of cyanide
Source: SNS Report and certified by Laboratory Network, Cyanide Detection Test (CDT) of Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources
Fishes and shellfishes are also contaminated with cyanide as a result of the research conducted by Save Nature Society where quoted from the report of Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, see table 4.
Banded pony fish
Japanese Blae Sprat
Banded Tailed Goat
Spotted Rose Snapper
Three-striped Goat Fish
SOURCE : From the report of Save Nature Society quoted from the report of Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, January 28-29, 1998.
In mid-1998 the people saw for the first time fishkill. A heavy rain from 26 midnight until June 27 dawn resulted in the silt dam of the company overflowing with the torrents going down to the seashore. In the morning, people saw a lot of dead fish, and some of them tried to get it for exhibit.
Francisco Suan, a fisher folk leader and chapel president of barangay Sawang, Sibutad brought about one fourth (1/4th) kilo of dead fish to the DCMI office at around 10:00 a.m. He informed the DCMI staff rather than the DENR personnel because of fears that the department would not tell the truth and this incident has never happened before.
In the afternoon, about 5:00 o’clock, Vinancio Angot and Doming Lumunggo, both living in Sitio Looc, Libay, brought about five kilos of dead fish at DCMI Office in Sicayab, Dipolog City. Angot and Lumungo affirmed what Suan said.
DCMI Staff verified the incident on the next day June 28 in the afternoon and went to barangay Libay. Due to heavy rains he failed to reach out the right person to be interviewed and talked positively. At 6:30 a.m. June 29, he talked the newly elected mayor of Sibutad, Roger Dizon. The incident was confirmed by the mayor and he himself tried to get much dead fish and gave to his cat and dog, but the animals refused to eat. He confirmed that was never happened before the company’s operation.
At the house of mayor Dizon, Rosario Buhisan from Looc and a neighbor of the mayor, also confirmed what he observed to be fish kills with alimango, kitong, balaknitan and many others showing up dead.
After verification of the incident DCMI staff went back to Diplog and talked to Jojo Leyson of Zamboanga del Norte Center for Social Concern and Development, a DCMI member who called the attention of Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), Dipolog City.
On June 30, 1998, in the person of Boy Montana and Jose "Noli" P. Ruiz of CENRO, coordinated with the DCMI staff in order to talk with a right person. CENRO personnel and DCMI staff traveled to barangay Libay of Sibutad and went to the mini-port of the barangay. First, they met with Pudol Tumaroy, a resident of Libay, and fisherman who also confirmed the fish kill incident. He saw personally the different kind of dead fish, like gisaw, danggit, banak, kitong and balaknitan floating on the water. Tumaroy and other people believe the incident was due to the water from the siltation dam of the company that was discharged during the heavy rains.
Few minute later, DCMI Staff and CENRO personnel saw personally the dead fishes, of the Kitong variety floating by the mini-port of Libay. The CENRO personnel took the dead fish and placed it in the plastic bag for exhibit. Then, they went to the house of Vinancio Angot who also preserved a lot of dead fish at home for exhibit in case somebody would ask, and there, CENRO and DCMI saw personally the different kind of dead fishes.
Last April 29 this year Kalikasan Council meeting where held in Sinipay Rosario Buhisan from Looc, Libay, Sibutad testified that sometime last year, one morning, his children went for a swim at a small River beside his home along the seashore. While watching his children in bathing, he observed fishes coming in from the sea and went to the mouth of the river and when they were already there they suddenly went dead. He took the dead fish and gave it to Mr. Cerilo Niebla, a small scale-miner. Niebla confirmed the incident.
Mrs. Leonila Colot, a resident of barangay Panganuran, a chairperson of barangay chapter of "Kalihukan Alang sa Kalingkawasan (KALIKASAN)" or Movement for Liberation, [a freedom from destruction of environment people’s lives and means of living] has confirmed about the one eye blind fish. She has heard many testimonies about this fish from neighbor-fishermen. She didn’t mind it before until her family personally experienced it, when they caught one on April 12, 1999.
Peloteo Pacatang, of legal age, married with six children, a resident of Panganuran, Sibutad, Zamboanga del Norte, confirmed that he himself caught a fish that was blind and that it was his first time, and it has been happening ever since Philex Gold Philippines is continuing its operation. "Nakakuha Ko og Lima ka isda nga halap ang pikas nilang mata" [I caught five fishes and all of them were blind in one eye. He himself and his family didn’t even eat, and he sold it without informing the buyer. Asked why he didn’t eat it, he said was afraid.
The seashore from Libay to Calube is sandy. Before the full operation of the mining company they never noticed its mud, if ever there were mud. It was a full of seashells and clams. Now it is full of silt and mud and covers and area of 300 to 500 meters from the shoreline towards the sea and is estimated to be two feet thick. This has also affected the other coastal barangays of Kanim, and Sawang. It has also damaged a Seven 7 million-peso mangrove reforestation project by DENR along the seashore of Libay .
The report of the investigating team of DENR central office reveals that the operations of Philex in Sibutad are situated above several communities on the slopes facing Murcielagos Bay. They found out that unmitigated or inadequately mitigated earthmoving activities would severely aggravate the problem of siltation, which, by itself, is already prone to occurrence due to its natural geography. Heavy earth moving is, therefore, not recommended.
Before the arrival of Philex Mining, the people of barangay Sinipay have enjoyed fresh drinking water sourced from the place where the mining company is operating now. Sinipay is about two kilometers from this source. The materials used by the barangay in order to bring the drinking water at the doorstep of the people of the said barangay were due to the endeavors by the people, led by the barangay officials. Then Philex management conducted a certain gathering with the people of Sinipay informing the residents that the company has to use the place where the source of drinking water of the residents originated. Then promises followed that people should not worry because the company will replace it by building a water treatment plant. The residents did neither said yes nor no. They only hope they can still drink fresh water. The promise has stayed a promise without any fulfillment.
In Barangay Libay, the same thing has happened. The company used the same sources of water. To avoid questioning from the people of Libay, the company has built a water treatment plant. At first they felt okay but later on apprehensions and worries cropped up because they have come to realize their water is not already safe at all since it has been treated. The irony here, the company personnel do not even drink the water from the plant. They have to buy mineral water from Dipolog City.
In the early hours of the morning of November 6, 1997, after two hours of heavy rain, mudflow occurred in Lalab. This mudflow came from the Lalab exploration area of Philex and it adversely affected five nearby houses including that of the Vice Mayor of Rizal, Zamboanga del Norte, Weeben Ko, and rice fields causing millions of pesos of damage .
What happened was that the extracted soils and crushed rocks accumulated in the area provided temporary check for the rains. But owing to the heavy rainfall these soils plus the huge rocks and boulders eventually gave in to the pressure of the accumulated rain water thereby loosening it and spilling them down to the silt dam falling down from a height of around 20 feet and three meters wide. In the process the exploration tunnel’s entrance, the stock pile of soil taken out from the exploration tunnel failed to check the flow of the water resulting in the "flashflood" which escalated down towards the houses below and down to the bay. In the memory of the people this was never happened until the operation of Philex Mining.
ECONOMIC AND PHYSICAL DISPLACEMENT:
The company has vehemently denied any displacement of the people from the area as resulting from their operation. But the truth in barangay Calube, 25 families of 142 households has transferred their residence to Dumanguete City and elsewhere in the country. They forced themselves to vacate from the area out of fear due to the tensions and threats from the company goons and blue guard.
Fortunato Gordobe, a chairman of Sibutad Small-Scale Miners Multi-Purpose Cooperative (SSSMMPC) in Lalab, Sibutad, has confirmed that before the arrival of the company, Lalab was the center of gold rush in the 80’s. There were around 20,000 small-scale miners then. But with the coming of this big company these numbers have been reduced to only 300 to 500. In effect, the small-scale miners had been displaced. There were two cooperatives existing prior to the arrival of the company, one was SSSMMPC, and the other one was North Sibutad Small Scale Miners Multi-Purpose Cooperative (NSSSMMPC). Last year the later decided to stop their operation because Philex Mining has fenced off their areas thereby making their areas inaccessible to them. This plus the blue guards of the company made it impossible for them to continue with their livelihood.
Willy Andilab, a resident of barangay Panganuran, and formerly Chairperson of KALIKASAN, has added, that before the operation of Philex Mining his fishnet placed about fifty meters from the seashore, could caught at least eight kilos of fishes. But after a few years when Philex commenced its operation, it’s hard to get even one or two kilos while mud would cover his fishnets.
For the families who used to take seashells along the seashore they have found out how difficult it is now, because of the knee-deep mud covering the seashore. Leonila Colot, Chairperson of KALIKASAN in barangay Panganuran estimates that, 90% percent of 507 total population in the said barangay used to get shellfish. Before the arrival of Philex Mining they used to get the said marine products around few meters from the shoreline. While when the Company’s operation has full blown, they could not get shellfish near because of mud, but they have to go in the deep about 100 to 200 kilometers from the coastal line which difficult for those who have no boat.
Colot further explained that before the commencement of company’s operation, they people in Panganuran who used to get shellfish could get 20 kilos in one week, but now they would just happy if they can get five kilos in one week.
In Barangay Sinipay, an island barangay of Sibutad, 95% percent of the population relied their income from marine products. Those fishermen could catch fishes 40 to 50 kilos at night like "Anduhaw and Dangit" fish before the commencement of Philex Mining Operation. In 1995 while Philex fully operated five kilos fish was already hard to catch. In 1999, the one kilo is hard to catch and get.
The people in Sinipay who used to get seashells have observed that before the arrival of Philex Mining company, they could easily get the 20 kilos seashells within two hours. When the company commenced its operation they suffered the significant reduction of their produce that fell down to two to three kilos.
In most of the workshops conducted in the different coastal barangays, the seashells augmented their income by providing the schooling children with allowance during school days. Their children used to take seashells on Saturdays and Sundays then sell them to the market or elsewhere in Sibutad. They don’t even need to ask money from their parents. But now most of the parents and poor people in the coastal areas feel it very hard to send their children to school. Many youths from the coastal places in Sibutad finished their college by helping their parents in taking seafood during vacation. But now it is so hard, as Hon. Avelino Yabo, a councilor of barangay Libay, has strongly expressed it.
HARASSMENT AND KILLING:
The area fenced by the mining company was the area of the small-scale miners. There are still many areas claimed by the small miners that have not yet been sold to the company. They still have the rights over the area as provided by R.A. 7076, a law provides for the small-scale mining. But the company guard kept on harassing these people and ordered them to vacate the area. Fortunato Gordobe, SSSMMPC chairman has confirmed this. The blue guards have threatened them that they might do something just to show a sample if the small miners persist in occupying the said territory.
It happened that in the early hours of the morning of May 3, 1998, Creliam Cadalin and other small miners went to their tunnel, which has been fenced off by the company, to dig for gold. After extracting several kilos of soil they decided to go back to their houses where they can process and extract the gold. It was at this time when the company guards, belonging to the 88Security Agency, owned by a politician suddenly appeared and without neither provocation nor warning took aim and shot them with high-powered rifles. Most of them suffered slight injuries and were able to escape from the hail of bullets. But not Creliam. He was shot by a 12-gauge shotgun at point blank range.
The victim sustained nine gunshot wounds and brought by his companion to the hospital in Dapitan City at around 6:30 in the morning. Unfortunately, owing to the lack of facilities and medicines the one in charge at that time recommended to forward the patient to the Provincial Hospital of Zamboanga del Norte in Dipolog City. Again, the attending physician refused them so they have to bring him to the Dipolog Medical Center but was pronounced dead at 8:30.