Sta. Cruz villagers said they do not want another deadly “red flood” to happen.
STA. CRUZ, Zambales – Residents of various villages in this town are calling for a stop to large-scale mining operations, whose destructive open-pit mining in the past 10 years, they said, culminated into the deadly flood last year.
Some 200 protesters led by the Movement for the Protection of the Environment (MOVE Now!-Zambales) gathered outside the North Central Elementary School in Sta. Cruz town proper on Feb. 27, and denounced the continued destruction of the environment by extractive companies.
All the protesters were victims of the flashflood last year. People passing by expressed support to the calls to stop mining.
In October 2015, Typhoon Lando (Koppu) sent nickel-laden mud and waters raging down the mountains laid bare by mining, overflowing into rivers and destroying houses, farms and properties. The floods left seven people dead, and 13,790 residents affected in Sta. Cruz.
There are six large-scale mining companies with Minerals and Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA), covering 12,000 hectares in Sta. Cruz. Four are operating: the DMCI subsidiary, Zambales Diversified Mining Corp. (ZDMC), Filipinas Mining (LAMI), Benguet Nickel Mining Inc., and Eramen Minerals Corp.
The protesters also lauded the ongoing barricade by residents in Bayto village, who had successfully blocked trucks hauling nickel ore, forcing the haulers to take the longer route from the mountains to the port. On Feb. 6 and 7, dozens of villagers were hurt and two were briefly detained by police, who tried to disperse the villagers to make way for the trucks servicing the mining companies. Despite the violence against them, the Bayto villagers had maintained their barricade.
Sta. Cruz parish priest Fr. Noel Montes of the St. Michael Parish spoke at the protest, quoting from Pope Francis’s Laudato Si, which called on people to protect Mother Earth, “Our Common Home.” Montes also praised the Bayto residents who took courage to stand against mining.
“We should not be afraid, because if we keep silent, what will happen is even more frightening,” he said. “There is vigor, there is hope when we act. And God does not lack in giving graces to those who fight for the good of the people,” he said.
Montes also joined the call to scrap the Mining Act of 1995.
Among the protesters were members of Disaster Preparedness Committees and environmentalist groups in communities.
Dinabel Mesia of the Samahan ng Kabataan Para sa Kalikasan (Youth Organization for the Environment) of Malabago village said the youth are taking part in opposing the continued destructive mining in their town.
“We should join our parents in fighting to protect the environment, because we are the ones who will inherit it. Do we have to wait until many more die?” she said during the protest.
The Sta.Cruz residents were joined by Central Luzon progressive groups and Manila-based environmentalists.
Text and photos by DEE AYROSO