Surigao villagers blame mining firm for pollution of water sources

JUBGAN, San Francisco, Surigao del Norte (MindaNews/30 April) – Mining activities by a firm that has reportedly no permit to operate have polluted the sources of potable water in this village, residents told MindaNews over the weekend.

Jubgan has at least 200 households, and they depend on the streams and river in their area for potable water.

Romeo Gordonas, a local resident said their water source would become murky with just a slight rain.

He said that even if Mt. Patag, the area where Surimin operates, has not been declared as a watershed it has been their source of water for several years already.

Alberto Llamor, a resident said Bioborjan River has been affected too.

“We get drinking water, wash our clothes, and bath there but now it turns murky when it rains. There are already sediments, which were not there when there were no mining operations up in the mountain,” Llamor lamented.

He said he doesn’t want San Francisco to be like Claver, another town in Surigao del Norte where water bodies have become silted due to mining operations, as majority of the people in their village are fishermen.

“You visit us here when there’s rain and see our body of waters. Murky water will go to several neighboring coastal villages,”Llamor said.

Noli Arreza, officer-in-charge of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in Region 13 on Friday said Surimin has no permit [from them] to operate in the area.

Jubgan village chair Felixberto Sual likewise said his barangay has not endorsed the company’s operations.

Sual said Surimin started only last month but its operations has affected not just their water sources but also the coastal waters which would turn muddy when it rains.

Residents said the mining operations take place around five kilometers from the village.

MindaNews obtained copies of videos and pictures from the group of landowners who went to the mining site on April 22 along with personnel from the MGB, Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Provincial Environment and Management Office. A video showed equipment like a backhoe operating in the area.

Sallustiano Pullos, one of the landowners, said dozens of coconut and gmelina trees and bamboos that he planted on his 10-hectare farm were cut and uprooted.

Pullos angrily said that he has not received any compensation for the destruction of his source of livelihood.

He noted that runoff from the mining site goes downstream affecting the water bodies.

Sual and some other villagers alleged that James Matugas, the brother of Rep. Francisco T. Matugas (1st district, Surigao del Norte) has a stake in the mining operations.

Rep. Matugas chairs the House committee on natural resources.

MindaNews tried to reach James Matugas through his mobile number since Saturday to no avail.

Sometime in 2012, Surimin tried to obtain the free and prior informed consent or FPIC of the Mamanwa tribe belonging to MAMASANSISU (Mainit-Malimono-San Francisco-Sison and Surigao City).

The Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act requires FPIC for projects to be undertaken in ancestral lands.

Dr. Natty Castro, head of secretariat of Caraga Watch, an anti-mining group, said they would file a complaint on Surimin’s mining operations. (Roel Catoto/MindaNews)