MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Letter to the editor of the Philippine Daily Enquirer

Published by MAC on 2005-11-15

Letter to the editor of the Philippine Daily Enquirer

dated 14/11/05

Dear editor,

This is in reaction to an article that appeared in the PDI with the title, “Mining firm's claim disputed” (PDI, 11/14/05, page A17). We wish to register our agreement with the observations of Dr. Emilina Regis from the INECAR of Ateneo de Naga. In a separate article from the Dow Jones Newswires (INTERVIEW: Spills Behind Philippines Closure – Lafayette, Nov. 10, 2005 Sec. Michael Defensor was quoted on the record as stating that: “If something goes wrong with Rapu Rapu it would effect the entire mining investment in the country.” A cursory check on the internet shows that Sec. Defensor stated this earlier in a press release titled “Defensor cites importance of mining project in Albay” that can be found on the PIA’s website ( That same article carries the line: “Defensor said during a press conference … that he wanted the Rapu-Rapu project to … ‘prove to our people that responsible mining is possible."

A big portion of local NGOs have held the belief that safe and sustainable large scale mining in the Philippines is oxymoronic at best and deceptive at worst. And we would like to ask Mr. Defensor what he believes in, now that his precious mine site in Rapu-rapu has dropped the proverbial ball in a big way, spilling cyanide into the waters off Barangay Binosawan, not once but twice in a month.

Lafayette Mining Ltd, the majority owners, claim that they use state-of-the-art mining techniques, yet all this technology is seemingly no match for two days of heavy rains. Imagine then, if that technology were to go up against a seasonal typhoon and a week’s worth of downpour.

The letter-writer in your Letters Section in that same date said it all - "Sooner or later, toxic mine tailings are going to spill and contaminate the water supply and the surrounding sea, and devastate the fishery resources on which most of the poor fisherfolks in the area depend for their livelihood" (Esteban Luis, PDI, 11/14/05, page A16).

What does Mr. Defensor say to that? We challenge Mr. Defensor to dispute the negative effects that the accident has brought forth to the community and to the environment in Albay. What is his department’s reaction to an independent investigation team’s findings that the Lafayette mine has been causing fishkills in the surrounding seas, and turning the waters “chocolate brown” with its dumping of tailings? Why is he not bringing the resources of the DENR and MGB to bear to refute these claims with hard data and clear facts? What will he say to the people of Rapu Rapu who have seen their fish catches plunge? What will he say on the record this time?

We already know what his response will be. We know that under Mr. Defensor, the DENR has bowed down to money and business every time, and whether it has been mining firms or logging firms at the door, the good secretary simply cannot sell out the national patrimony fast enough.

From Rapu Rapu to Samar, from Quezon to Canatuan people already know the answer Michael Defensor will give – “Resume operations. Business as usual.”

Jaybee Garganera
National Coordinator
59 C. Salvador St., Loyola Hts., Quezon City
426-67-40 / 436-07-02
(0927) 911.60.09

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