Caraga anti-mining advocates to join Earth Day commemoration

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews / 21 April) – Hundreds are expected to join the commemoration of Earth Day here tomorrow as residents in the Caraga Region, in a forum today, expressed their opposition against environmental destruction caused mainly by mining.

Dr. Maria Natividad Castro, head of secretariat of Caraga Watch, said that delegates from the five provinces in Caraga will converge at the regional office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) for a protest rally.

Castro said during the forum dubbed “Local Environmental Issue and Grassroots Responses in Caraga” that mining operations in Caraga continue to displace the lives both local fisher folks and farmers as a result of the adverse effects of the operations of large-scale mining companies.

She pointed out that Caraga has one of the highest number of large-scale mining companies in the country, most of which are operating in Dinagat Island, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur.

Bishop Mervin Elimanco, of the Dinagat diocese of the Philippine Independent Church, said at the forum that the large-scale mining operations have changed the landscape of the once beautiful island.

“Mountains are scraped and there are several environmental violations done by the mining companies in all the towns of Dinagat. No wonder the color of the sea has changed from blue to orange,” he lamented.

He noted that there are mining operations in all seven towns of Dinagat, no wonder its rivers and streams have full of laterites.

Ten mining companies are extracting nickel ore in Dinagat, which are then shipped abroad.

Sebastian Pelanio, chairman of Surigaonon Mangingisda Alang Sa Maayong Kaugmaon (SUMASAKA), said that the siltation problem led to loss of livelihood among fisher folks not just in his village but even in the neighboring municipalities and Surigao City, too.

He said that is in nearby Hinatuan Island, which is part of the municipality of Tagana-an where Pelanio lives, the operations of the Hinatuan Mining Company have destroyed people’s livelihood in the fishing communities there.

“Our fish catch have dwindled and we cannot get shells anymore on the seashore because siltation is chest-deep,” Pelanio lamented. He added that they cannot anymore walk on the shore because of the siltation, which he said has even gone to the high seas.

The dust, he said, is yet another problem, which is causing lung problems among residents.

Godofredo Dagoc, a farmer in Tubod town in Surigao del Norte, said they affected, too, as silt have crept into their rice lands. Their potable water supply has also been polluted, he added.

Dagoc also pointed out that many farmlands have been bought by mining companies.