Thousands of people in Zambales are in fear of their lives due to alarming environmental degradation yet mining operations are expanding
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Thousands of people in Zambales are in fear of their lives due to alarming environmental degradation yet mining operations are expanding

Iba : Philippines | May 22, 2012 at 9:36 PM PDT
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Silted and contaminated river

Thousands of peasants in the interior barangays of Sta. Cruz, Zambales from the villages near the mining sites to the stockpiles in Bgy. Bolitoc are in fear of losing their lives and the lives of their children and livelihoods due to the alarming environmental conditions that may bury them alive.

The close to five hundred families of peasants in fear of losing their lives and their livelihoods are located in the barangays of Tubo-tubo North and Sur, Guisguis, Almasin and Bolitoc, all in the town of Sta. Cruz, Zambales.

In the last three months, Concerned Citizens of Sta. Cruz (CCOS) documented the following: (a) Because of mining operations mountains were rendered bald causing hundreds of tons of erosion that filled the rivers and covered farmlands. Around 50 hectares of farmland in Tubo-tubo North and Sur are now non-arable because of erosions and another 50 hectares were not cultivated because of reduced water supply due to the destruction of the watershed. With the coming rainy season, the peasants are expecting more floods and erosions that will bring further destruction to their farmlands. However, the mining companies refuse to acknowledge that the destruction of their farmlands is due to their mining activities; (b) In Sitio Pawo located in barangays Guisguis and Almasin at least 25 hectares are already non-arable because of the one-foot erosion while hundreds of families experienced reduced produce, the rivers are heavily silted and flooding is more frequent, deeper and longer. With the opening of another mining site in the nearby mountain, the peasants are expecting a much worse situation. The absentee land-owners are now contemplating to sell their lands instead of fighting for compensation from the mining companies; and (c) In Bgy. Bolitoc where the stockpiles of the mining companies continue to expand covering farmlands and swamps and a mountain is being leveled for the construction of a new port for the Filipinas Mining Corporation, the people are in fear of losing their basic livelihoods: fishing and farming. As of now, some people are denied access to their land and the sea by Shangfil. They are also in fear of long term and future diseases, including cancer that may affect them because of their exposure to hazardous metals.

In the neighboring towns of Candelaria, Zambales and Infanta, Pangasinan where new ports were constructed to service the needs of Benguet Mining Corporation and Eramen Minerals, Incorporated respectively, the people are complaining as well. The minerals coming from the mountains of Sta. Cruz are hauled to the nearby towns passing through the national roads.

The people along the roads of the three towns of Sta. Cruz, Candelaria and Infanta are now in fear of increasing respiratory and skin diseases as well as vehicular accidents as more and more soiled hauling trucks are using the roads with no respect to speed limits. More than 300 hauling trucks are passing the road of the neighboring towns at least six times a day rendering the highways dusty when dry and muddy and slippery when wet.

In spite of all these fears, the local officials from the barangay to the municipal levels whom the people believed are receiving financial support from the mining companies are not lifting any finger to protect their constituents from the immediate and long term hazards of mining operations.

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Part of the 50has erosion-filled farm land in Tubo-tubo
At least 50 hectares of farmland was filled with erosion from the nearby mountains being mined, but the mining companies refused to acknowledge that the erosion is caused by their mining operations.
ben696molino is based in Antipolo, Southern Tagalog, Philippines, and is a Stringer on Allvoices.
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