Mining ban lifting dismays Borongan prelate

Published April 27, 2021, 12:38 PM

by Leslie Ann Aquino

Borongan Bishop Crispin Varquez said the lifting of the moratorium on new mining projects would further “exploit our already much-wounded land.”

BORONGAN CATHEDRAL/MB

“New mining operations will only worsen our environmental crisis on top of this health pandemic,” CBCP News quoted Varquez’ pastoral letter released Monday, April 26.

The prelate issued the pastoral letter following President Duterte’s lifting of the moratorium on new mining deals to boost state revenue and prop up the pandemic-hit economy.

The decision ended the policy imposed in 2012 by then President Benigno Aquino.

Eastern Samar hosts decades-old chromite and nickel mining operations on the historic Homonhon Island in Guiuan town.

Efforts are also reportedly being made to revive the nickel mining operation on Manicani Island, also in Guiuan, that the government shutdown in 2002 over human rights and environmental issues.

Abandoned 26 years ago, the Bagacay mine spill disaster in Wester Samar’s Hinabangan town still haunts the affected communities, especially those along the Taft River in Easter Samar.

For the diocese, the island has no history of responsible mining.

“Our local experience provides enough evidence,” Varquez said. “Bagacay, Homonhon and Manicani cry out this truth”.

Samar, the country’s third largest island, is hilly and mountainous. Mining in this area, he added, means lowland communities become more susceptible to flooding and pollution from mining operations.

“Locals may be temporarily employed or benefited. But the long-term consequence of a devastated landscape is also incalculable and irreversible,” Varquez said.

He then called on President Duterte to issue again an Executive Order for mining moratorium in the country.

 
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