BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/19 January) — Environmental groups warn that Caraga region could be the next environmental disaster area after Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities if the local government units and government agencies do not take action soon.
“As the capital of extractive activities in the Philippines and the number one region in climate change hot spot, no doubt, Caraga will suffer/experience same fate as that of Cagayan de Oro City and Iligan City,” said Carl Cesar Rebuta, project development officer of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan (LRC-KsK).
In an online interview, the Cagayan de Oro-based environmental campaigner noted that Caraga hosts the most number of mining permits in the country, covering almost half of the total land area of 1.8 million hectares of the region. He said it is also the timber corridor of the Philippines and hosts most number of Industrial Forest Management Agreements (IFMA) permits.
“The remaining and fragile watershed of Caraga is threatened by these extractive activities,” said Rebuta.
He cited as example the case of Mt. Hilung-hilung in Cantilan-Carrascal, which is covered by an active mining operations, the case of Bukid dako and Bukid gamay of Placer. MRL Gold (Mindoro Resources Limited ) has an active exploration permit in the Lake Mainit areas. Mainit, Placer, and Tubod watershed areas are also at risk since it is now covered by mining operations of Philex. And several more in Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte and even the Taguibo watershed issue in Butuan City are all plagued with mining and illegal logging operations, said Rebuta.
Nokie Calunsag, Campaign Officer and Media Coordinator for Green Mindanao, said that if illegal logging activities such as that in the Cortez area in Surigao del Sur and other parts in Caraga region would not be acted upon by the concerned agencies, environmental disaster will ravage the region in the future.
“If left unchecked the ones that will suffer would be the people. We propose that there should be a moratorium to stop logging and mining activities in Caraga for the time being and conduct assessment and study on its current situation and environmental effects. They say that these are all for the development, but the bottom-line is that when the worst happens it is the people in the community that would be at the losing end and not the companies behind the destruction,” he said. (Erwin Mascarinas/MindaNews)