Surigao priests campaign against proposed limestone quarry

GIGAQUIT, Surigao del Norte (MindaNews / 16 June) – Roman Catholic priests in this municipality have been reiterating their call against the planned limestone quarry activities in the village of San Isidro.

Fr. Nick Penados, the parish priest of Gigaquit, told MindaNews Wednesday that they don’t want to allow any mining or limestone quarrying activity in the town, worried of its adverse effects on the environment.

Fr. Mario Noblefranca, Penados’ colleague in the parish, said the town doesn’t need the presence of a limestone quarry, adding that the people have survived without it.

Penados told the crowd during an anti-quarrying meeting last Saturday at the village’s covered basketball court that limestone quarrying would only ruin the environment of Gigaquit.

The priest warned that the limestone quarry company would only make good promises to the constituents and these would never be materialized.

Penados fears that residents who rely on farming will be affected once limestone extraction starts.

“Only the capitalists will benefit from this and we the constituents would definitely suffer at the end,” the priest said, adding he had witnessed the adverse effects of several mining and quarrying operations in other parts of the country and elsewhere in the world.

The priest has been saying this in his homilies after the barangay council of San Isidro issued a resolution on November 24, 2015 in favor of Ibuna Enterprises’ plan to open a limestone quarry.

Penados said Gigaquit residents have witnessed the environmental destruction wrought by mining operations in the neighboring towns of Claver and Placer.

Noblefranca said he would maintain to stand firm against any mining and quarrying activity in the town.

“As one of the stewards of the environment, we should respect nature because we will definitely not exist without it. Let’s preserve it for the next generation,” he said.

Barangy Captian Maria Luz Eupena told MindaNews they have already issued the endorsement to Ibuna Enterprises.

Residents have questioned the barangay council’s endorsement, saying there was no consultation conducted on the matter.

But Eupena said they have conducted an information drive in all the sitios of San Isidro even as her colleague, barangay councilor Alberto L. Rojo, admitted last February that the council unanimously approved the resolution without the benefit of a barangay assembly.

She said they gave endorsement for Ibuna after getting advice from former Climate Change Commission Secretary Mary Ann Lucile Sering, who Eupena claimed favorably endorsed the planned limestone quarrying.

But Sering vehemently denied Eupena’s claims.

The people of Gigaquit have been opposing the proposed quarrying activity through petitions which were submitted to concerned government agencies.

Wilfredo Moralina, a representative of Ibuna Enterprises, told MindaNews earlier that they want to extract the limestone in San Isidro because of the bulk deposit which they could eventually sell to mining companies and other firms who need it.

He said limestone has so many uses – in the manufacture of sugar, paper, cement and many others; and for the mining industry, as neutralizer to the acidic oil.

Residents raised concerns that higher government bodies, like the municipal council or the provincial board, might also endorse the planned quarry.

“We are now afraid that they could get another endorsement for their operations,” said Roy Pepino, a retired United States Navy serviceman from Gigaquit.