Anti-mining activists want DENR to revoke Philex permit

SOME 200 anti-mining activists on Tuesday urged Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) secretary Ramon Paje to revoke the mining permit of Philex Mining Corp. after the firm own by business mogul Manny V. Pangilinan figured in environmental disaster poisoning a major river system enjoining the towns of Itogon and Tuba in Benguet province on August 1 this year.

The strong appeal to Secretary Paje was delivered by participants to the 1st National Peasants Conference on Land, Mining and Militarization organized by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) in cooperation with Anakpawis party list, Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) held inside the UP Diliman Campus in Quezon City.

“The situation warrants an all out revocation of Philex mining operation, not just suspension and mere fine of P 1 billion for the pollution caused by sediments leak in the company’s Padcal mine that caused livelihood and environmental destruction covering the towns of Itogon and Tuba,” said Antonio Flores, KMP spokesperson.

The KMP spokesman also said other mining applications of Philex Mining Corp. pending before Secretary Paje’s office should also be rejected. Flores also supported the previous call of Pamalakaya to file criminal and other appropriate charges against owners and executives of the mining company.

The conference aired via Ustream and skype to KMP regional chapters in Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Bicol, Eastern Visayas, Negros and Panay islands, Central Visayas and Southern, Northern, Far South and Caraga regions in Mindanao also appeared like a major challenge to and gross condemnation of the recently passed anti-cybercrime law.

Flores said the DENR has to accomplish at least three major steps — immediately cancel the permit of Philex mining, compel the company to pay the P 1 billion fine and file criminal and other appropriate charges against Philex mining company.

The KMP and co-organizers Pamalakaya and Anakpawis party list said they were dismayed with the way DENR is treating the mine spill in Itogon and Tuba, Benguet. They said it appears to them that Secretary Paje and other officials of DENR are treating the Pangilinan mining firm with kid glove despite penalizing it with P 1 billion in total fine for the sediment leak incident that allegedly transformed tilapia in Itogon-Tuba River like mutant fishes.

Last week, the National Secretariat of the Social Action of the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) confirmed in a fact-finding mission that the mine spill in Benguet involving Philex leaked 1,300 percent more waste than the 1996 Marcopper incident which left Boac River “biologically dead”. The fact-finding mission was done on September 16-17.

In its 26-page report, the Church-led fact finding mission noted that the mine spill is massive, citing that the total amount of sediments released by the mining company was about 20.6 million metric tons of sediment, which is way above higher compared to Marcopper tragedy in Marinduque 17 years ago.

The spill at Philex Padcal mine took place on August 1 following days of intense rains spawned by two typhoons, but Michael Toledo, Philex vice president for corporate affairs had downplayed the results of the fact-finding mission.

The Philex official said government and independent metallurgists had found the fish and water quality in areas near Padcal’s mine are safe. Toledo argued that the waters discharge in Padcal are free of toxic substances contrary to previous reports that the mine spill led to mutation of tilapia and disappearance of eel regularly caught in the river connecting the towns of Tuba and Itogon.

Participants to the mining conference will picket Philex head office in Pasig River on Wednesday to demand the company’s immediate pullout in Benguet and the urgent payment of P 1 billion fine pegged by DENR.

They said the fund should be spent for the rehabilitation of the major river system polluted by Philex mining and for the livelihood of affected farmers, fisherfolk and indigenous people living along the Itogon-Tuba River.

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