[Press Release] Because of mining ops, Lake Bito in Leyte turns brown -ATM

Because of mining ops, Lake Bito in Leyte turns brown
Putting Fishers livelihood in real danger

MACARTHUR, LEYTE – At 7:00 o’clock in the morning, fishermen in Lake Bito, Brgy. Villa Imelda fell down on their knees after seeing that the lake that provides livelihood for them turned brown like a 3 in 1 coffee. This was after Nicua mine operations opened their settling pond where silt flowed straight to the lake.

“We saw right in front of us how the mine waste muddles up with our water. We were caught in shock. The water runs fast from the mining site to Pangunawan Creek to Lake Bito. The lake now looks dead” said Jesus Cabias, president of Unahin Lagi ang Diyos – Bito Lake Fisherfolks Association (UNLAD-BLFA).

The incident happened after Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resource (BFAR) Region VIII almost cleared NICUA mining company for the fish kill incident last April despite traces of oil and grease in the lake water. Following the fish skill that cause the death of more than 22 tons of tilapia, the community decided to block mining barges last April 30.

“Now, we no longer need any test. Just the mere sight of the lake is horrifying. They just have to come here, smell the water and feel it. We are just controlling our emotion at this time; people are crying out of frustration, we are angry. The fish kill and this is very hard for us because this is about our livelihood, our life, ’” Cabias added.

“This is a grave offense to people and to the environment,” said Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina. “MacArthur magnetite mining is a clear threat to food security wherein fishery industry in Lake Bito is at stake as well as rice production in the area,’ he added.

The Aquino administration must not delay anymore its new mining policy. Mine catastrophe like this in Lake Bito adds to the growing evidence that there is no life in mining”. Garganera added that Aquino must distinguish himself from the previous government, whose mining legacy is still impacting negatively to FIlipinos.

Garganera claimed that magnetite mining in prime agricultural lands as well as in other areas such as in coastlines and offshore should be stopped considering the present threats of climate change and disasters.

‘The Mining Act of 1995 is not clear on the protection of our agricultural areas – mining is being permitted adjacent to productive farms or within ricefields. It gives mining companies full right over our water resources,’ claimed Garganera.

In a phone interview, Provincial Fisheries Officer Jose Siervo said that they will do their best to send an investigation team within the day to look over the matter.

Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) is an alliance of mining-affected communities and their support groups of NGOs/POs and other civil society organizations who are opposing the aggressive promotion of large-scale mining in the Philippines. (30)

Contact details:
Mr. Jesus Cabias, UNLAD Bito Lake Fisherfolks Association President – 0912.433.7768
Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator – 09277617602
Edel Garingan, ATM Media and Communication Officer – 09228918972

Press Release
May 12, 2012

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