The proposed black sand mining in Lingayen Gulf, a large gulf framed by the provinces of Pangasinan and La Union, may affect the aesthetic quality of coastal areas in Pangasinan that could turn off tourists from going to the province.
In a briefing on Monday, Nov. 1, 2021, Tugon Kabuhayan convenor and former Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Director Asis Perez told reporters that aside from affecting the livelihood of thousands of fishermen, the proposed seabed mining in Lingayen Gulf will also have an impact on the tourism industry of Pangasinan and La Union.
This is because the seabed mining project could potentially affect the water quality in the affected areas and could turn the province’s beach areas into muddy shores.
“Tourists wants clear water in the beach, but if huge volumes of muddy seawater will continuously be discharged in the area [because of the seabed mining activities], then this will turn off tourists and will not them go or go back to the province,” said Fernando Siringan, director of the Marine Science Institute at UP Diliman, said.
He also said that the mining project may result in higher food prices in the area because it will surely affect the productivity of fishermen in the province.
“Tourists go to that area because they want to taste their food products, but if these become too costly, then that will also turn them off from going back to the province,” Siringan further said.
Perez and Siringan are particularly referring to the Financial or 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.
Lingayen Gulf is an environmentally critical area (ECA) in 1993 by President Fidel Ramos through Proclamation No. 156, that is why it sparked questions about how the company was able to obtain an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the project.
In the briefing, Siringan reiterated that seabed mining could result in the resuspension and dispersal of fine-grained material; resuspension of undesired biological materials like harmful algal bloom cysts; potential release of undesired metals and other compounds; and modification of benthic habitat and therefore of overall gulf ecosystem.
He further explained that the “undesired metals and other compounds” will eventually be consumed by people who rely on the fisheries and aquatic resources caught in the area for their food sources.
Back in September, Perez already urged the Philippine government to consider and study the adverse impact of this project on 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.
“At a farmgate price of P110 pesos per kilo, revenue from bangus production in Pangasinan alone is at least P16.5 billion pesos. 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-convenor.