Gina Lopez rallies Surigaonons vs. mining

CANTILAN, Surigao del Sur (MindaNews / 23 Jan) – Staunch anti-mining advocate Regina Lopez rallied residents in the seven towns of Surigao del Sur last Monday to oppose mining in eco-tourism sites.

Some 6,000 advocates chanted and raised their fists to mark their strong anti-mining stance against the continued degradation of an ecosystem area that has already started to grow brown and murky.

The subject of their protest is the MarcVentures Mining and Development Corporation (MMDC) operating in the Mt. Hilong-Hilong ranges that is seen to threaten a major river serving a major irrigation in three towns in the province.

Lopez’s attendance to this quiet and rustic town sent buzzwords to locals who for months have pinned hopes of her presence so they will be able to bring their cause to national attention.

Chito Trillanes, head of the Social Action Center (SAC) in Lanuza town, said Lopez’s presence “has been a long dream of our people to find a link to bring our issues to the national government.”

Jeanette Palang-Zayas, municipal councilor, said they have high hopes that Lopez’s presence and commitment to help in their anti-mining cause will get to the President’s ear as soon as possible.

The managing director of the ABS-CBN Foundation was in provincial capital Tandag City a day before the Cantilan sojourn as part of her two-day sortie in the province.

The Cantilan gymnasium was filled to the rafters with participants from this town and neighboring areas, as well as students from local public schools, fisherfolks, farmers, women and religious groups, bank employees, retirees, and ordinary folks gathered to see Lopez.

Johnny Lugo, chair of Barangay Linintian, said 80 to 90 percent of his constituents are solid against mining.

Linintian is one of the populated barangays of this municipality, which has 17 barangays. Five barangays are opposing the operations of MMDC, which residents blamed behind the murky waters of the Cantilan River due to siltation.

Miguel Azarcon, kagawad of Barangay Parang which is close to where MMDC operates, lamented how his riceland in Sitio Tuog has turned into a brownish pond of silt. He complained of the government’s alleged continued inaction against MMDC’s operation that he claimed destroyed agricultural activity in the area.

Don’t sell your vote

In her hour-long talk, Lopez presented her position against “how mining is being run in this country” and why it should be stopped.

She said the only way to stop mining in the country is for the people to act and bond together and “to not sell your votes,” reminding them of the forthcoming elections just a few months away. She also hinted on the division between the pro and anti-mining politicians, to which the audience roared and applauded.

Cantilan is known for its strong opposition against mining operations in the province dominated by the Pimentels, who own and operate CTP Construction and Mining Corporation in neighboring Carrascal town.

Cantilan Mayor Genito said in his speech that the continued mining activities in the mountains of Hilong-Hilong will further threaten the waters of Cantilan, affecting fisherfolks.

Lopez rallied the students to join her in generating 10 million votes for the Save Palawan Movement while also urging them to cast their votes wisely.

“Don’t go for candidates who only think of filling up their pockets, but go for those whose interest is not for himself but for others. This is nothing political but we just want to say we don’t want to destroy our rich biodiversity,” she said.

Tandag Bishop Nereo P. Odchimar, in a message read during the gathering by Fr. Ovies Pateros, denounced all mining operations in the province while also citing a study conducted by the Social Action Center (SAC) that mining companies do not operate “responsibly”.

Anti-mining advocates here has organized a fun run on April 27 during the Earth Day Celebration to drumbeat the call for a moratorium on mining in the province.

Fifty thousand runners are expected to join the run that will stand to benefit farmers and fisherfolks in Cantilan, Bislig, Liangga, and San Miguel towns, Lopez said.

A petition letter calling for President Benigno Aquino III to declare a moratorium on all mining operations in the province signed by various local non-government organizations, environment groups and sectoral organizations in the area was handed over to Lopez. She promised to bring it to the President. (Vanessa L. Almeda / MindaNews)