CARMEN, Surigao del Sur (MindaNews/30 July) – Groups opposed to mining hit what they claimed was a secret consultation on Thursday last week conducted by a mining company in a barangay in this town.
Macquarie Mineral Resources Inc. (MMRI) held the alleged secret consultation at the barangay hall of Puyat attended by a handful of participants, a few meters away from the main office of Surigao Development Corporation (Sudecor).
Sudecor, a logging company, has filed a petition against Macquarie at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources regional office asking that the latter’s exploration activities “be stopped immediately as it is in violation of the terms and conditions of their exploration permit.”
A church-based group called the consultation a “deception of the public and all stakeholders.”
Chito Trillanes, an official of environment group CarCanMadCarLan-Par said he happened to learn about the activity from a friend who asked him if was attending it.
The group’s initial stands for the municipalities of Carrascal, Cantilan, Madrid, Carmen and Lanuza and Barangay Parang. It is headed by the Social Action Center of the Diocese of Tandag.
Most of the roughly 200 people who came to the consultation were anti-mining advocates, Dr. Isidro Olan, executive director of the Lovers of Nature Foundation Inc. said.
Olan, who called the consultation “dubious and malicious,” said: “We’re actually the only non-government organization in the area but we were not informed about this.”
“It’s good that the people are indeed ready to fight for their cause because with just a short notice they came here in droves,” Trillanes said.
Mariana L. Mainit, a catechist coordinator read a position paper read in front of MMRI, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) officials, and lashed at the organizers for the “tikas” (deception).
“We do not believe that Macquarie is a responsible mining company. The strategies that it has employed, the secret meetings and the conduct of this public consultation which only invited selected participants is an indication that Macquarie cannot be trusted,” the statement, written in the vernacular, said.
“Any process that is not open to the public cannot be called responsible,” it said.
The group also said in the statement that they do everything to stop the mining venture, including moves to oust officials who were allegedly involved in the big deception.
But in an interview MMRI president Raymundo B. Calo was unfazed, saying the management actually welcomed the group’s presence in the consultation.
“That is why we are holding this public scoping because we wanted to hear the sentiments of the people. We follow the rules and we intend to follow it because we are responsible. And if there are lapses, nobody is perfect though. We will take note of the observations including the issues that were raised,” Calo said.
Before the closing of the activity, MMRI corporate communications head Bryan Garde said the company did not intend to isolate groups opposed to mining. “Rest assured we welcome the position and sentiments of the people. We just assumed that the invitations were given to everyone since we channeled this to the local government units concerned” Garde said.
For its part, the EMB said it had no hand in the activity, although it admitted it was part of the requirements for the issuance of an Environmental Compliance Certificate.
“We are just here to assist them,” Edwin Mollaneda, EMB focal person for Surigao del Sur and Norte and the Dinagat Islands, said.
Madrid mayor Guillermo Arpilleda meanwhile voiced his support to the planned entry of MMRI saying he does not believe that mining is destructive citing that countries like Australia, Canada or the US have thriving mining industries but did not suffer environmental degradation.
Climate change, he added, is not the cause of political and social conflicts citing the wars happening in Syria, Afghanistan and other countries. “They said that the cause of flooding is climate change and the latter is also caused by mining. That is not climate change. God is already fed up because they are troublemakers.”
He said he is in favor of “responsible mining,” adding, “Let others take care of the future. What we need to address now is the present wherein we need to give employment to the people.”
Meanwhile, Carmen Mayor Antonio T. Borda, who failed to attend the consultation, declined an interview.
Environment activists said Borda share their anti-mining sentiments. MindaNews, however, has yet to get his side on the issue. (Vanessa Almeda/MindaNews)