“ZDMC-DMCI’s shooting against the residents of Acoje is deplorable. This is an alarming spike in the continuing violation of people’s rights by the mining firm.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Various environmental groups have condemned the continued operations of a company in Sta. Cruz, Zambales in spite of suspension orders issued by government agencies. This week, protesting residents were reportedly shot at by the company’s guards.
On July 5, armed security guards of the Zambales Diversified Minerals Corporation (ZDMC) reportedly fired at barricading residents of sitio (subvillage) Acoje in Lucapon village, Sta. Cruz.
ZDMC, a subsidiary of the DM Consunji Inc. (DMCI), is one of the nickel mining companies whose operations were ordered suspended by Environment Secretary Gina Lopez today, July 8.
“Despite the recent filing of Executive Order 1 by Governor Amor Deloso, the temporary environmental protection order by the Supreme Court, and the order of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau to suspend their operations, the ZDMC-DMCI is relentless in violating the rights of the residents and the court and executive orders against their operations,” said Meggie Nolasco, Zambales field office coordinator of the Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC).
The residents have set up a barricade since May 14 to block ZDMC’s trucks hauling logs from Acoje’s forest area, which is also the main source of water for the village and surrounding communities. A Manila Times report said that although the hauling trucks have been barred entry, the cutting of trees inside the watershed continued.
“When we visited the area just last Saturday, we saw continuing operations of backhoes in the residents’ sole water source and the presence of heavily armed men who questioned us upon entering and leaving the area,” said Joey Marabe of the Diocese of Iba Advocacy Desk (DIAD).
“ZDMC-DMCI’s shooting against the residents of Acoje is deplorable. This is an alarming spike in the continuing violation of people’s rights by the mining firm,” said Marabe.
The Diocese of Iba has supported the Sta. Cruz residents’ call to halt mining in the town, as they attribute last year’s devastating floods to the 20-year-old mining operations.
Environment Secretary Lopez ordered the suspension of mining operations in Zambales, following the writ of kalikasan issued by the Supreme Court.
Aside from ZDMC, also ordered suspended were: Benguet Corp. Nickel Mines Inc. (BNMI), a subsidiary of Benguet Corp., Eramen Minerals Inc. (EMI), LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc. (LAMI).
ZDMC is one of the five mining companies in Sta. Cruz, Zambales that was the subject of a writ of kalikasan petition filed by the Concerned Citizens of Sta. Cruz (CCOS). In its decision, the SC ordered the Court of Appeals to start hearing the case. Aside from the four suspended mining firms, the group’s petition also included the operations of Shangfil Mining and Trading Corporation (SMTC).
A halt to mining in Zambales was also the subject of the first executive order of newly-elected Governor Amor Deloso, who said the environmental destruction in the province must stop.
Environmentalist groups have also supported the Sta. Cruz residents’ campaign to stop mining in the town.
“We join the local people’s movement in calling on Environment Sec. Gina Lopez and Gov. Deloso to immediately enforce the stoppage of the ZDMC-DMCI operations,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE).
“We challenge our public officials to permanently close all large-scale mining operations of these chronic violators in Zambales. This will set the tone for President Duterte’s promise to crackdown on repeated offenders of mining and environmental laws,” Bautista said.