Osmena seeks Senate probe on Philex Mine spill

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SENATOR Serge Osmeña today called for a thorough Senate inquiry into the massive mine spill at the Padcal mine of Philex Mining Corp. in Benguet which has affected the livelihood and water resources of thousands of people in northern and central Luzon.

In a privilege speech, Osmeña noted that more than 20 million metric tons of tailings had already gushed from the tailings-pond of Philex’s Padcal mines, raising concerns among indigenous peoples as well as non-government organizations and church-based groups about its dreadful consequences.

Osmeña said these groups have been asking him to initiate an investigation so that Congress can strengthen laws to prevent similar incidents.

Among the groups which had called for the probe include the Climate Change Congress of the Philippines, the Cordillera People’s Alliance, the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas, the Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura.

Also, several church-based groups like the Shontoug Foundation, Inc., an outreach institution of the Religious of the Good Shepherd-Baguio City; as well as the Diocese of Dipolog had similarly sought for an investigation.

Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, convener of the Climate Change Congress of the Philippines Inc. said the Padcal mine spills represents the “worst mining distaster in the Philippines.”

“This is 10 times than the volume of mine tailings that spilled out of the Marcopper mine in 1996 in Marinduque, which dumped approximately 2 million metric tons of wastes into the Boac River and is still considered the worst mining disaster in terms of toxicity. What is alarming in the recent mining disaster at PMC is its inflow to the San Roque dam and the Agno River in the province of Pangasinan,” Ledesma said.

He added that the Padcal mine spills “is not the first. There were other accidents in this mining site, including the collapse of a dam wall in 1992 due to a weakened foundation caused by an earthquake that happened two years earlier. As it is, these mining accidents could not just be justified as force majeure.”

Dipolog Bishop Jose R. Manguiran, on the other hand, said: “We earnestly request through your office to conduct as soon as possible an investigation at the Senate not only to point out the culprit but also in aid of a better legislation that would eventually prevent any
mining related tragedies in the coming future.”

Manguiran revealed that Philex is currently exploring several areas in Zamboanga del Norte, and he said that he does not want another tragedy to happen in his diocese.

He was referring to the gold mining activities in his diocese, where mercury and other heavy metals had affected Murciellagus Bay.

Osmeña said that when the Benguet mine spill happened in August 2012, “there were no clear government findings and ruling on the toxicity, accurate volume of total discharges, and, more importantly, their impact to the communities directly and indirectly affected by the disaster.”

“We owe it to our people, the country and ourselves to know the truth about the massive leak, its impact to the affected communities and our ecosystem,” the senator said.

“Therefore, in the interest of transparency, fairness and justice, I request that an inquiry be conducted even while the Senate is on recess,” he said.

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