By ALMA SINUMLAG
BAGUIO CITY – “Sana’y hindi maging kuwento na lamang, at kupas-kupas na mga larawan. Ang mamanahin ng susunod na salinlahi. Mundo nila’y ating buuing muli” (I hope the inheritance of the next generations will not only be tales and faded photos. Let us together build a better world for them).
This is part of the lyrics of the song entitled Pamana (Inheritance) sung by Micheal Cabangon, spokesperson of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) Cordillera during the re-launching of the Save the Abra River Movement (Starm) here on August 26. The song served as an opening number for the renewal of convenors’ commitment to save the Abra river basin from the worsening threats to its biodiversity and the worsening effects of pollution to the communities from Benguet down to Ilocos.
Convenors from the church, academe, non-government organizations (NGOs), peoples organizations and members of the communities along the Abra River basin met and renewed their commitment to the said cause and invited more to support the movement.
Santos Mero, deputy secretary general of the Cordillera Peoples (CPA) updated the groups on the mining situation of the region especially on various mining applications that will affect Abra river once they start operating. These include Royalco Philippines Inc. in Bakun, Bezant Resources in Mankayan, Queensberry Mining and Development Corp.
Also cited are the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMC) and its continuing expansion of its Far South East project through the help of Goldfields, and numerous exploration project applications (EXPA) in Mountain Province by the Cordillera Exploration (CEXI), Horizon Resources Corporation which is also owned by LCMC, among others.
Along the river basin in Patiakan, Quirino are the applications of Phelps Dodge, Canex and Apanacex. In Abra, Grand Total owned by the Singson in Ilocos has applications in Lacub. Moreover, mining firms Mina Fortuna, Canex and Titan have also applications.
The movement, he said, is faced by greater challenges unlike before where it was only the mine wastes of LCMC’s operation that threatened the river’s biodiversity.
Abra River pollution and off-shore mining in Santa, Ilocos Sur
Mayor Jeremy Jesus Bueno of Santa, Ilocos Sur expressed his full support to the movement and shared with the groups their municipality’s experiences in Abra river’s pollution and their ongoing fight against off shore mining.
“Any garbage that you throw there in the uplands, we catch and suffer from it,” he said in the local dialect, adding that their place is the Abra river’s outlet to the South China Sea.
Bueno said the pollution of the Abra river due to the mining operations of LCMC resulted to coral bleaching. He added that fish kills had been frequent because of the poisoning.
Bueno said the municipality is also fighting against the off-shore mining of the Global Titan Mining Company that is causing the shrinking of their land area. He recounted that in 2008, the company went to his office seeking for a mayor’s permit for them to operate and telling him that off-shore mining will not affect them negatively.
The company, he said, even bribed him P10 million. “They told me that if I will sign their permit, I will have a share amounting to P10 million,” he said.
It could have been an easy money, he added. However, he recalled that during the martial law, there was an operation of magnetite mining company in their town and had caused the fast depletion of their land area. He then denied their permit. He said he did not want to be remembered by his constituents as the one who sold their town for P10 million.
“I came here in solidarity to uplift our morale and ask for your help in saving our town from being erased from the map,” Bueno said.
Others who shared testimonies were Councilor Denver Tongacan of Mankayan, Benguet. He shared how mining companies specifically Goldfields used the power of money to twist the position of the community.
Also, from Abra is Rev. Moises Marlo who shared that almost all the municipalities in their province are applied for by mining companies. Unfortunately he said, their local officials are not like Bueno of Santa.
Marlo said militarization intensified especially where the mining applications are located. Two battalions of the military are deployed in the province. Sadly, he added that organizations, individuals and even churches that are opposed to mining are being tagged by the military as supporters of the New People’s Army (NPA), including his church, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UUCP).