MACARTHUR, LEYTE – Hundreds of fishers from Lake Bito, in Villa Imelda village, decided to block the entry of three mining barges which aim to dredge and clean-up the silt making the lake shallow.
In an emergency community assembly called by the village officials last night, the community vehemently expressed its opposition to the entry of the mining barges fearing that the disturbance which will be brought by the vibrations of the machine equipment and extraction of silt and sand may cause more fish kills in the lake.
‘The fisherfolks are still suffering from the loss of 21,000 kilos of fish and the investigation on the fish kill is not yet finished, we are now again exposed to another threat which may lead to a more complicated situation,’ said village chief Ronald M. Mentes.
Mentes claimed that no proper public consultation was conducted allowing the dredging of the lake.
‘What we wanted is for the mining company to clean up their silt which blocks the waterways of the lake towards Pamunawan and Saloquege creeks. However, we will not view this as a favor from the mining company, they should be responsible and accountable to whatever mess they caused to the community and ecology,’ explained Mentes.
Located in Barangay Villa Imelda, Lake Bito lies in the middle of prime agricultural land producing rice where more than three companies were given permit called Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), among which is a Chinese mining company currently extracting magnetite sand within an area of more than 7,000 hectares.
It has been observed that heavy siltation from the company’s operation caused the blockage of lake outlet wherein sandbars are gradually forming.
‘We cannot deny the fact that MGB allowed mining in ricefields or close to it, surrounding Villa Imelda, the community around Lake Bito has nowhere to go,’ said Jesus Cabias, president of the newly formed Unahin Lagi ang Diyos – Bito Lake Fisherfolks Association (UNLAD-BLFA).
Cabias asserted that if magnetite sand extraction is not stopped, food security and sufficiency is at stake.
‘Everything is interconnected, whatever you do to the surrounding areas, the lake will still be affected,’ concluded Cabias.
Joining the fisherfolk community, Archdiocese of Palo Social Action Director Fr. Edwin Perito articulated the position of the Catholic Church considering mining as a spiritual and moral issues which continually divides the faithful.
‘It is greed which forces the influential few to the detriment of the majority, denying the people to a balanced and healthful ecology,’ declared Fr. Perito.
Meanwhile, Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina, said in an official statement that ‘MacArthur magnetite mining is a clear threat to food security wherein fishery industry in Lake Bito is at stake as well as rice production in the area.’
Garganera claimed that magnetite mining in prime agricultural lands as well as in other areas such as in coastlines and offshore should be stopped considering the present threats of climate change and disasters.
‘The Mining Act of 1995 is not clear on the protection of our agricultural areas – mining is being permitted adjacent to productive farms or within ricefields. It gives mining companies full right over our water resources,’ claimed Garganera.
Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) is an alliance of mining-affected communities and their support groups of NGOs/POs and other civil society organizations who are opposing the aggressive promotion of large-scale mining in the Philippines. (30)
Brgy. Captain Ronaldo M. Mentes, Barangay Villa Imelda, MacArthur, Leyte – 0947.420.7620
Mr. Jesus Cabias, UNLAD Bito Lake Fisherfolks Association President – 0912.433.7768
Fr. Edwin Perito, Archidiocese of Palo Social Action Director – 0920.967.6213
Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator – 09277617602