Mayor asks NGOs to probe fish kill in Lake Mainit

MAINIT, Surigao del Norte (MindaNews/14 December) — Citing the town lacks technical capability, Mayor Ramon Mondanao has asked nongovernment organizations to investigate what caused the massive fish kill in Lake Mainit.

Tilapias and carps have been dying starting three weeks ago in the fourth largest lake in the country.

The fish kill has affected the livelihood of hundreds of fisher folk that depend on the lake.

Mondano was reacting to the statement of Judith Rojas, assistant regional director of Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR)-Caraga that the agency has not acted on the incident as there was no request from among the local government units.

But Anne Melisa Talavera, officer-in-charge of BFAR’s Regional Fish Health Laboratory told MindaNews in a text message Sunday that they got samples of the fish two weeks ago and these are being studied for analysis in Manila.

With the contradicting statements, the mayor said it would be better to have an independent body investigate the fish kill.

He said he is hoping NGOs would help while he is searching for institutions that can do laboratory analysis of the samples.

Townsfolk including the mayor himself suspected that the fish kill was caused by mining activities upstream.

Fisher folk like Rolando Zamora of Poblacion in Mainit town recalled the worst fish kill in the lake occurred during the operations of Surigao Resources Consolidated (Suricon) in the 1970s to the early 1990s.

Zamora said it was worse then because almost all of the fish died.

He said he was wondering why the tilapias got so weak that one could easily catch them.

He said they noticed that the gills of the fish turned white as if they were hit by cyanide.

He was also wondering why it was the big ones and not the small ones that were affected.

Most fisherfolk in Alegria and Mainit towns have not gone fishing since the fish kill hit the lake.

Prices of fish like tilapia went down to 40 pesos per kilo.

“Most people would no longer eat the fish because they are afraid of getting poisoned too,” Zamora said.

The fish kill also happened in Kitcharao and Jabonga towns in Agusan del Norte which are also along the lake, affecting the lives of many fisherfolk.

John Simbajon, a collector from a lending company told MindaNews that their clients could not pay their “arawan” (daily dues) for their loan because of the fish kill.

“Some of our clients who rely on the lake for their livelihood could not pay their debts. We pity them,” he said.

Polluted

Greenstone Resources Corporation, a subsidiary of Red5 Limited, an Australian-based gold exploration and mining company, is currently mining gold and silver at the abandoned minesite of Suricon in Barangay Siana in Mainit.

Fisherfolk said Greenstone’s operations have polluted Magpayang River the runoff from which would settle in the lake.

“We used to swim and fetch water for household use there but now it’s so murky. We don’t even allow our carabaos to bathe there,” a resident named Goliat said..

Faustino Ladaga, a farmer in Pungtod, Alegria recalled the times when water running along Magpayang River was clear.

“I recalled the fun times along the river. We used to swim there because it’s clear, but now its turbid and useless,” he said.

MindaNews sent queries to Simon Leech, mine manager of Greenstone, but he has yet to reply.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) on June 6, 2013, issued a cease-and-desist order on the gold processing operations of Greenstone in Barangay Siana after a tension crack was found on the embankment of its tailings storage facility no. 4.

In January 2015, the MGB allowed Greenstone to resume its gold processing operations after constructing a new tailings storage facility and implementing other remedial measures.

Mondano said tailings would spill during heavy rains. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)