By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Residents of mining-affected communities in Zambales are increasingly resisting the operations of large-scale mining companies, whose 10 years of open-pit mining are being blamed for the devastating flood last year. But resisting villagers are also under attack.
On Feb. 29 at 7:30 a.m., police dispersed a two-day-old barricade by residents of Uacon village, Candelaria town, Zambales province, which tried to block trucks hauling nickel ore from the mountains to the port. A number of people were injured, as police used anti-riot batons and shields to break their ranks.
Six residents were also arrested, said a news report.
The blockade in Uacon started at 1 p.m. on Feb. 28, as some 200 residents successfully halted at least nine trucks hauling nickel ore. The Uacon barricade is the second to be put up against mining trucks. The first barricade started in Bayto village in Sta. Cruz town on Jan. 19. This had since forced hauling trucks that service the mining companies to take the more circuitous route where they had to pass through Uacon village in Candelaria.
Allan Merced, Bayto resident, told Bulatlat that on Feb. 29, more than a hundred police men from Task Force Malimanga swooped down on suspected leaders of the barricade. Merced, who was at the Uacon barricade, said cellphones, pots, banners, even the papag (wooden bed), were seized by state forces.
He said residents from Uacon and five other villages in Candelaria trooped to the police station in the town proper to call for the release of their companions. They also called on Candelaria Mayor Napoleon Edquid for help.
“The people went back on the road after the police left,” said Merced, who was at the media briefing for the Green Vote 2016 Campaign. But on March 1, members of the Special Civilian Armed Auxilliary (SCAA), who are also security guards of a mining company, reportedly arrived to prevent the people from converging on the road to form a blockade.
Last week, Bayto residents were joined by peasant, environmentalist and church groups based in Manila, Pampanga and Tarlac who went on a fact-finding and solidarity mission to Sta. Cruz. The group presented the report of the environmental investigative mission last year which linked the October 2015 flood in Sta. Cruz to the open-pit mining operations.
Catholic priest Fr. Noel Montes of the St. Michael’s parish in Sta. Cruz has hailed the Bayto village stand against mining, and encouraged other people to also come out and make a stand to protect the environment.