People’s caravan protests impending large-scale mining in Batangas

June 9, 2015

Lobo mine project can affect important biodiversity sites, global center of marine biodiversity

By Kalikasan PNE
Green groups protest with Batangas peasant and fisherfolk outside DENR compound in Quezon City.

Green groups protest with Batangas peasant and fisherfolk outside DENR compound in Quezon City. Image from D. Ayroso

Environmental activist group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) joined local church leaders and environmental advocates from Batangas in a dialogue-protest at the central office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) today to protest the railroading of the large-scale mining project of Australian-Canadian mining firm MRL Gold-Egerton Gold Phils Inc.

“The Aquino government and its local counterpart in Batangas are both out of their minds in allowing the Egerton large-scale mining project to push through in the Municipality of Lobo. They are condemning to destruction not only Lobo’s important biodiversity areas but also the global center of marine biodiversity, the Verde Island Passage, to which Lobo is contiguous,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of environmental activist group Kalikasan PNE.

Lobo was declared in 1997 as the top fifth of the 18 centers of biodiversity in the Philippines, while international and local scientists have identified the Verde Island Passage as the center of the center of marine biodiversity in the world. DENR also identified it as one of the five key marine biodiversity areas in the country. A 2004 study documented 1,736 marine species in just one small section of the Verde Island marine biodiversity corridor.

The dialogue, organized by environmental groups Kalikasan PNE, Bukluran para sa Inang Kalikasan-Batangas (BUKAL Batangas), Archdiocese Ministry on Environment of Batangas (AMEN), alongside local fisherfolk organizations and the local resort owners association, sought to warn the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the ecological risks if the Egerton gold mining project pushes through. EMB is the government agency issuing environmental compliance certificates (ECC) to environmentally critical projects.

“The Egerton gold project will be utilizing open-pit mining technology, which will result in the production and dumping of millions of metric tons of mine wastes into the Lobo River down to the waters of the Verde Island Passage. This impending mine pollution will surely spell death to current marine conservation areas in Lobo Municipality alone,” Bautista explained.

There are four declared marine conservation areas in Lobo, namely the Lobo Mangrove Conservation Area, the Sawang Olo-olo Fish Sanctuary and Refuge Area, Malabrigo Fish Sanctuary and Refuge Area, and the Biga Fish Sanctuary and Refuge Area.

“The grave environmental risks of the mining project to the Verde Island Passage’s marine biodiversity corridor are more than enough for EMB to deny Egerton its ECC. As large-scale mining involves deforestation and land clearing, flora and fauna will be surely lost and communities will be displaced in the development and commercial operation of the mining project,” Bautista added.

Petti Enriquez, secretary general of provincial environment group BUKAL Batangas, said that “Fisher folks, peasants and local businesses are at the losing end if the government permits the Egerton large-scale mining project to operate in Batangas. The bounty of the forests, farm lands, and the sea in Batangas is the source of livelihood, food security, and investment of Batanguenos. Not only the fishery and agricultural sectors will be adversely affected, but also the booming tourism in the province. We will not take this sitting down, if needed we will fight tooth and nail to protect our land, livelihood and environment.”

The nearby Municipality of San Juan, Batangas has passed a resolution in 2006 banning large-scale mining in their town to protect their fishing industry and tourism. The municipalities of San Juan and Lobo are well-known tourist destinations because of their pristine beaches and rich coastal resources. ###