Logging, mining blamed for recent flood in Jabonga

BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/20 February) – Logging and mining activities around Lake Mainit and its nearby areas were major factors in the recent flood that hit Jabonga town in Agusan del Norte, the town mayor and an environment group said.

Mayor Glicerio M. Monton acknowledged that these activities have caused siltation in the river which channels water from the lake into the sea.

“The major river that traverses Jabonga has been silted to the point that it has even diverted from its original route. Before it would take three or more days of nonstop rains to start flooding, now flood waters will immediately rise in just three hours,” said Monton.

He added that while the townsfolk have become used to flooding for decades now and have become resilient, it was a gradual process for them.

“Last year the major flood that swallowed the entire town for two months was a huge eye opener. Last week the water rose so fast that people who were used to flooding panicked,” the mayor said.

“Sources and community partners in the field confirmed to us that there is an ongoing blasting, small scale-mining operations between the towns of Jabonga and Santiago and also in other parts around the lakeside area. The debris and silt from these on going activities flow to the river, tributaries and into the lake,” said Nokie Calunsag, campaign officer of Green Mindanao for the Caraga Region.

Calunsag also said illegal logging activities have continued in several mountain villages around the lake.

Barangay San Pablo chairman Arthur Grana Jr. confirmed the existence of these activities in a phone interview. He said that since 2002 when he became village chief they have tried to regulate the cutting of trees in the area.

Grana said that this year they have declared a stop to logging in their barangay but there were still people who managed to enter the forest.

“It’s a fight but we need to protect our lake. We had already met with the barangay lupon and police to plan new ways in combating the illegal cutting of trees,” he said.

Barangay San Pablo has been working with Green Mindanao on environmental awareness.

Green Mindanao has an ongoing biodiversity conservation project in Lake Mainit which started in 2010 and a cultural revitalization project with the indigenous peoples in the area.

The two projects involve four lakeside towns, Alegria and Mainit in Surigao del Norte and Kitcharao and Jabonga in Agusan del Norte.

Meanwhile, Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño today said he doubts if President Benigno Aquino III’s “much awaited executive order on mining would be able to go beyond the defects of the Mining Act of 1995 in terms of lopsided benefits to foreign owned and backed mining firms, lack of environmental safeguards and the disempowerment of local communities.”

“This EO will not change the bias for exports and its resulting unbridled extraction of our mineral wealth for other economies. It seems the thrust of the EO is  merely on increasing government revenues and giving local government units a larger piece of the pie. But this fails to address the more fundamental issues afflicting the industry,” Casiño said in a statement.

“Without a clear industrial strategy and the repeal of the Mining Act of 1995, we will only be further depleting our mineral resources to the benefit of foreign mining corporations. What we need now is a more responsive and people oriented mining law,” he added.

Casiño has filed House Bill 4315 or the People’s Mining Bill which seeks to reorient the Philippine mining industry towards the “wise and sustainable development and judicious use” of the country’s mineral resources. (Erwin Mascarinas with a report from H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews)