By Minerva Newman
CEBU CITY – Officials of Barangay Biga in Toledo City has filed an environmental complaint to the Mines and Geo-Sciences Bureau (MGB) against Carmen Copper Corporation (CCC) whose blasting activities they said damaged houses and affected the groundwater supply of the village.
Biga Barangay Captain Pedro Sepada Jr. with the Biga women’s association Namabi and Mabirwa told MGB OIC-Regional Director Efren Carido blasting operations occur twice a day and conducted about 350 meters away from a human settlement.
In a Kapihan sa PIA forum Wednesday, Carido said MGB has formed a team composed of local environmental experts to investigate the complaints of the residents.
MGB Central Visayas head of the research Armando Malicse told Manila Bulletin Sepada is not calling for the closure of the mining company.
“They just want to know what are the programs of Carmen Copper to answer to the barangay residents’ complaints,” Malicse said.
The Biga officials want to ensure that mine wastes are properly stored and disposed, that their human rights are respected and that the barangay’s income will improve from mine waste fees.
The residents told the team the blasts left cracks on their walls and floors. They also said the spring that was their water source had dried up.
They also alleged that CCC had not been transparent about its spending for its Social Development and Management Program (SDMP) and its gross income.
The residents said that contrary to what was promised by the mining firm, only a few of them benefitted from the alternative livelihood assistance from CCC.
Maricris Libre, Mabirwa president, said that when CCC re-opened the Atlas mine, affected Biga residents were promised relocation assistance. The livelihood assistance had not been enough to enable the residents to make ends meet, Libre said.
The mining firm gave each household P2,000 as relocation assistance and a few pieces of wood, which were not enough for a decent dwelling, Libre said.
“We think both parties are not communicating well. There is a need for them to meet,” Malicse said. A technical conference was scheduled for July 23 between Carmen Copper and Biga officials with the MGB as a conflict mediator.
Malicse said CCC was given 15 days to answer the complaints.
CCC’s operational area covers 1,676 hectares, affecting the barangays of Don Andres Soriano, Media Once, Biga, Bagakay and Loay in Toledo City.