10,000 run for environment in Surigao Sur

CANTILAN, Surigao del Sur (MindaNews/29 April) – Backed by star power, an estimated 10,000 people from several towns and one city in Surigao del Sur staged a post-Earth Day fun run and rally to once again drumbeat their opposition to mining over the weekend.

Organizers said around 5,000 participants came from the towns of Carrascal, Cantllan, Madrid, Carmen and Lanuza (collectively called CarCanMadCarLan, the areas that are in the forefront of the struggle against mining.

“This is a demonstration of their sentiment for a healthy environment,” environment activist Dr. Isidro Olan said of the fun run dubbed dubbed “Save our Surigao Movement: Dagan Para sa Kinaiyahan” which started at the Surigao del Sur State University (SDSU) into the town center.

“This is a show of force that the people understand our advocacy for a clean earth that is free from the ills of destructive mining,” Fr. Raymond Ambray of the Social Action Center in the area said.

Later at 1 p.m. in Tandag City, Gina Lopez of Bantay Kalikasan together with showbiz heartthrobs Gerald Anderson and Maja Salvador joined an estimated 3,000 runners around the city proper for the other leg of the anti-mining activity.

About 2,000 protesters from Lianga, Bislig, San Miguel and other towns in the southern part of the province were waiting at the bleachers of the city plaza cum open gym.

“I’ve been walking for years to fight aggression and I continue doing it until now because the government is still not listening,” 68 year-old Rosario Marcelo, from the town of San Miguel, told MindaNews.

Almer Cenados, a resident of General Island in this town, said fellow fishermen in the tiny island are guarding their shorelines and fishing grounds 24/7 against pirates and environmental threats including the threat of siltation from nearby Carrascal where two large-scale mining companies operate.

Cenados, president of the local environment group Islahanon Andam Magdumala nan Kinaiyahan said the group has already discovered the presence of silt in some part of the island brought by the current.

“We want this checked by experts but our problem is the money to finance the study since it will entail extensive funding to study and even clean the area,” he said.

The run aimed to raise funds for the campaign against the continued operations of a mining firm allegedly within a declared protected watershed area at Mt. Hilong-Hilong Range and to assist communities affected by its presence.

“While there is the growing concept of development all around us, we are holding this activity because we want to be pro-active in bringing this concern to everyone. This is a peaceful expression of our position on this so-called development,” Ambray said.

Showbiz and politics

“They’re here because of Maja and Gerald but they also here because of their strong stand against mining in Cantilan,” Emma Hotchkiss, chairperson of Baywatch Foundation said.

Over 5,000 people were inside the Surigao del Sur State University grandstand in addition to those who were outside, Chief Inspector Jesus B. Aranco , Cantilan police chief said.

A girl who appeared to be in her teens was overheard saying “we are yes to mining, why force us”, apparently reacting to chants from speakers urging the people to save the environment and oppose mining.

But the girl disappeared when sought to elaborate her comment as Lopez, Salvador and Anderson went up the stage.

Salvador and Anderson are talents of ABS-CBN, a major TV network run by Lopez’s husband, Eugenio Lopez III.

Lopez asked Cantilan residents not to sell their votes and vote for candidates who are committed to protecting the environment.

She openly criticized a politician who reportedly has a pending gold mining application in the province. She did not directly name the politician but when she asked the audience if they knew him, the crowd shouted “Pichay.”

Pichay is re-electionist Congressman Philip Pichay.

Anderson entertained the crowd by portraying “Budoy” in urging the crowd to protect the environment.

“Budoy,” a person with mental disability, is the title of a TV series where Anderson played the lead role.

His rumored girlfriend Salvador also took the microphone and spoofed her role as “Margaux” in another TV series “Ina, Kapatid, Anak“ in pitching for the environment.

‘Green’ pols

Olan, who leads the anti-mining campaign in his hometown Madrid, said his group will come up with a list of “green candidate” that it will openly endorse before the May 13 polls.

Ambray, head organizer of the event said it is difficult to assume that the turnout of the fun run will translate to victory for anti-mining candidates.

But he said that even if the “green candidates” would lose, their advocacy work against mining will continue. (Vanessa Almeda/MindaNews)