Residents protesting mining operations in Sitio Acoje, Sta. Cruz, Zambales were dispersed violently by armed security of the Zambales Diversified Minerals Corporation (ZDMC), a subsidiary of the DMCI corporation, last Tuesday. Environmental groups condemned the shooting and continuing harassment against the residents.
“ZDMC-DMCI’s shooting against the residents of Acoje is deplorable. This is an alarming spike in the continuing violation of people’s rights by the mining firm. When we visited the area just last Saturday, we saw continuing operations of backhoes in the residents’ sole water source and the presence of heavily armed men who questioned us upon entering and leaving the area,” said Joey Marabe of the Diocese of Iba Advocacy Desk (DIAD).
“We are one with the residents in calling for the stoppage of mining operations in their area and in the entirety of Sta. Cruz. Despite the recent filing of Executive Order 1 by Governor Deloso, the temporary environmental protection order by the Supreme Court, and the order of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau to suspend their operations, the ZDMC-DMCI is relentless in violating the rights of the residents and the court and executive orders against their operations,” said Meggie Nolasco, Zambales field office coordinator of the Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC).
The CEC has been implementing disaster risk reduction and sustainable livelihood programs for the mining-affected communities in Sta. Cruz.
Acoje, situated in the eastern mountainous side of Sta. Cruz, became a settlement area of Igorot communities when mining operations started in the province in 1945. Since 1997, more mining companies have taken interest in Acoje’s mineral-rich mountains, including ZDMC in 2007. DMCI eventually acquired ZDMC and continued its operations.
In March this year, the company violated their agreement with residents not to disturb the community’s only water source, spurring the locals to barricade the main roads to prevent the access of ZDMC-DMCI trucks and their other equipment.
“The community barricaded against the mining operations because ZDMC-DMCI threatened to mine over their water source. The company continues their operations despite a court ruling demanding that they temporarily stop until the case we filed against them is resolved. When the residents protested their persistence in encroaching into the forests, heavily armed guards fired upon them and continue to terrorize the community,” said Cristeta Sison, of Move Now, a local alliance of people’s organizations in Sta. Cruz.
Acoje residents earlier filed a case against the ZDMC-DMCI and sought the help of other local organisations, the parish church, and other environmental groups to support their struggle.
The residents of Sta. Cruz, together with the various supporting groups, have long been demanding for a 25-year mining moratorium in the affected areas until the municipality recovers from the massive environmental destruction that are adversely affected the livelihood, health and lives of the local people.
“The people’s barricades must continue to resist the impunity of ZDMC-DMCI and other mining firms, and to pressure our public officials to address the repeated violations of mineral and environmental laws by these plunderers. Let us hold our public leaders accountable to their promise of change,” said Sison.
“We join the local people’s movement in calling on Environment Sec. Gina Lopez and Gov. Deloso to immediately enforce the stoppage of the ZDMC-DMCI operations. We challenge our public officials to permanently close all large-scale mining operations of these chronic violators in Zambales. This will set the tone for President Duterte’s promise to crackdown on repeated offenders of mining and environmental laws,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE).#
Reference: Meggie Nolasco, Zambales Field Office Coordinator, Center for Environmental Concerns Phils., 09227695010