“The endorsement of Lobo government officials for the MRL-Egerton mining project should be revoked and reversed to protect Lobo’s lives, livelihood, and environment.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Environmental groups and thousands of residents of Batangas called on the local government to ban large-scale mining in the province, as they gathered to protest the entry of the Mindoro Resources Limited-Egerton Gold Philippines (MRL-Egerton) in Lobo town.
“The endorsement of Lobo government officials for the MRL-Egerton mining project should be revoked and reversed to protect Lobo’s lives, livelihood, and environment,” said Peti Enriquez, secretary general of Bukluran para sa Inang Kalikasan (Bukal-Batangas), at the gathering at the Lobo town center on June 29.
Bukal-Batangas, along with the Lobo Resort Owners Association and Lobo Water District, submitted a petition to the Lobo municipal government asking to revoke SB Resolution 2015-26, which was issued by the Lobo municipal council, endorsing MRL-Egerton’s application for commercial gold mining.
The groups were joined by the Archdiocesan Ministry on Environment (AMEN), Gina Lopez of Bantay Kalikasan, whose family owns the media giant ABS-CBN, and Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE).
Enriquez also called on Batangas Governor Vilma Santos and the provincial government to “immediately declare a ban on large-scale mining in the province to ensure the province’s last remaining ecological footholds.”
Early this month, various groups of peasants, environmentalist, church people and businessmen trooped to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (Denr) in Quezon City to appeal to the Environmental Management Bureau to reject the application of the Australian-Canadian mining company. The MRL-Egerton had been conducting exploration in the area since 2003.
“The DENR, who is primarily tasked to ensure the protection of Verde Island Passage and Mt. Lobo as biodiversity critical areas, is actually the one promoting large-scale mining in Lobo,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
“While DENR declared watershed and marine protected areas in Lobo, it permitted to MRL-Egerton to conduct open pit mining and dump mine waste to the Verde Island Passage on the other hand,” he said.
Bautista said Lobo is considered the country’s fifth top biodiversity center, and one of the last homes of Batangas’ forests. Kalikasan had warned that mining operation will dump toxic mine waste into the Lobo river, down into the the Verde Island Passage, a strait known as the ‘center of the center’ of marine biodiversity in the country.
Bautista blamed the entry and operation of companies like MRL-Egerton to the Mining Act of 1995, which the Aquino administration had promoted.
“We have no recourse but to resist and defeat MRL-Egerton in order to protect our environment and resources. At the same time we must continue to pressure the government to junk their bankrupt mining policy and program,” Bautista said.
Fr. Daks Ramos, AMEN director said the Catholic Church “will be a leading voice” in resisting the mining company.
“What is in store for our fisherfolks and their families’ future once MRL-Egerton poisons our rivers and seas? What will happen to our peasants whose fields will be inundated by mine waste? The loss of livelihood and worsening poverty are sure outcomes of this big mining project, thus the Catholic Church will be a leading voice in opposing MRL-Egerton’s persistent attempts to plunder our environment and our people’s future.”