The controversial black sand mining project in Lingayen Gulf, which obtained government approval in 2020, is seen affecting the country’s fish production given the area’s significant fisheries output, particularly bangus.
In a briefing on Monday, Tugon Kabuhayan convenor and former Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Director Asis Perez urged the government to consider and study the adverse impact of this project to the livelihood of the fishermen.
Lingayen Gulf is one of the major fishing grounds in the Philippines, covering 2,064 square
kilometers of water, surrounded by the towns of Agoo, Alaminos, Anda, Aringay, Bani, Bauang,
Binmaley, Bolinao, Caba, Dagupan, Labrador, Lingayen, Rosario, San Fabian, San Fernando (La Union), Santo Tomas, and Sual.
The entire Lingayen Gulf has around 3,000 cages for bangus, thousands of hectares and
fishponds, hundreds of fish-pens, and a very productive fishing ground. Estimated annual
production from bangus cages alone is around 125,000 to 150,000 metric tons (MT), thus making the area one of the country’s top bangus producers.
“We are very much concerned about the danger this project will bring to aquaculture and the sector. We are equally concerned about food security. The government just recently allowed importation and now they want to endanger actual production,” Perez told reporters.
Perez was particularly referring to the Financial for Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) issued to mining firm Iron Ore, Gold, and Vanadium Resources (Phils.) Inc., which allowed the firm to do black sand mining within 10,000 hectares of the gulf off the towns of Sual, Labrador, Lingayen and Binmaley and Dagupan.
Based on the FTAA, the company has obtained the exclusive rights to extract magnetite sand in the aforementioned areas.
“At a farmgate price of P110 pesos per kilo, revenue from bangus production in Pangasinan
alone is at least P16.5 billion. We’re very much concerned about the danger that this
project poses to both the aquaculture and fisheries industries and the livelihood of fishers and
aquaculture operators in the gulf,” said Norberto Chingcuanco, Tugon Kabuhayan’s Co-
Lingayen Gulf is declared an environmentally-critical area (ECA) in 1993 by President Fidel Ramos through Proclamation No. 156 and this is why it sparked questions how the company was able to obtain an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the project.
“This project will affect two provinces — Pangasinan and La Union — and three cities, namely Alaminos, Dagupan, and San Fernando. If it’s true that this project was given an FTAA without the proper process, then this could be considered for writ of kalikasan,” Perez said.
The writ of kalikasan is a remedy available to a natural or juridical person, entity authorized by law, people's organization, non-governmental organization, or any public interest group accredited by or registered with any government agency, on behalf of persons whose constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology is violated or threatened, involving environmental damage of such magnitude as to prejudice the life, health or property of inhabitants in two or more cities or provinces.
The other day, Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) Central Luzon Regional Chairperson Bobby Roldan said that the proposed project would entail “devastating impacts” to the livelihood of not less than 5, 000 small fisherfolk in Pangasinan’s Dagupan City, Binmaley, Lingayen, Labrador, and Sual towns.
“This proposed offshore mining would certainly spell doom to the livelihood of thousands of small fishers who subsist in Lingayen Gulf through various forms of fishing. Not to mention its adverse impact to the livelihood of other coastal residents involved in inland fisheries and salt farms in interior parts,” Roldan said.
“Additionally, magnetite mining is indisputably destructive to the marine environment and ecology. The offshore mining would be carried out 2-4 kilometers from the shoreline wherein mangrove forests providing fertile habitats to wide array of marine species are situated,” he added.