Writ of Kalikasan filed vs mining firms, Zambales, DENR officials

Randy Datu

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Writ of Kalikasan filed vs mining firms, Zambales, DENR officials
CCOS chairman Dr. Ben Molino and his co-petitioners say the continued mining operations in Sta. Cruz, Zambales violate RA 7942, otherwise known as the Mining Act of 1995, and its implementing rules and regulations

SANTA CRUZ, Zambales – Residents of Santa Cruz in Zambales and neighboring Infanta in Pangasinan, led by anti-mining advocate Concerned Citizens of Sta. Cruz (CCOS), filed before the Supreme Court on Friday, May 20, a Writ of Kalikasan case against 5 operating mining firms, officials of the provincial government of Zambales.

The CCOS also filed cases against several officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and two of its bureaus – the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) – in an attempt to end destructive mining operations in the province.

Officers and directors of Benguet Nickel Mines, Inc. (BNMI), Eramen Minerals, Inc (EMI), LnL Archipelago Minerals, Inc. (LAMI), Zambales Diversified Metals Corp. (ZDMC) and Shangfil Mining and Trading Corp. (SMTC) were named as respondents, along with DENR Secretary Ramon Paje; outgoing Zambales governor Hermogenes Ebdane, Jr. ; MGB director Leo Jasareno; former acting Region3 MGB director Atty. Danilo Uykieng; MGB-Region 3 OIC Lope Carino, Jr.; EMB director Atty. Juan Miguel Cuna; EMB-Region 3 director Lormelyn Claudio; and outgoing Sta. Cruz municipal mayor Consolacion Marty.

MGB Multipartite Monitoring Team chief Engr. Lauro Garcia, Jr., former EMB3 Multipartite Monitoring Team head Engr. Dennis Celestial, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) – Zambales OIC Laudemir Salac, Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) Zambales OIC Raymond Rivera, members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan ng Zambales, members of the Sangguniang Bayan of Sta. Cruz and PCInsp Orlando Reyes, Sta. Cruz police station chief were likewise included as respondents.

Luisito Marty, incoming Sta. Cruz municipal mayor and who was also the mayor during the time mining operations started in Sta. Cruz, was also included as one of the respondents.

In their petition before the High Court, CCOS chairman Dr. Ben Molino and his co-petitioners said the continued operations of the mining companies in Sta. Cruz, Zambales violate RA 7942, otherwise known as the Mining Act of 1995, and its implementing rules and regulations.

The petitioners said mining operations have caused much destruction in the mountains, watershed, forests, farmlands, water systems and livelihood of all residents of Sta. Cruz and posed continuing threat to their lives.

The petitioners cited the destructive impact of a number of typhoons in the past few years due to unsystematic mining operations in the town.

Petitioners also accused the public respondents named to have been remiss in the performance of their duties in implementing existing environmental laws and regulations.

The petitioners claim they have been insisting on assessing the whole of Sta. Cruz, Zambales and its neighboring municipalities for the extent and magnitude of the damage to its environs but “both public and private respondents have not acceded to such request as it will expose the utter destruction and the sorry state that Sta. Cruz is now.”

Petitioners also said DENR, MGB and EMB may have issued warnings and even suspensions on the violations committed by the mining firms but these “in reality exist only on papers.”

“Mining firms BNMI, EMI, LAMI, ZDMC and Shangfil have chosen to refuse government notices to stop polluting the environment,” the petitioners alleged.

They added that the DENR’s administrative order number 2010-1, the IRR of RA 7942, specifically sections 3 and 39 provides that the government’s environment agency shall adhere to the principle of sustainable development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs, with the view of improving the total quality of life, both now and in the future.

The petitioners say “Evidently, the violations reveal that the operations have not been pro-environment nor pro-people.

The residents of Sta. Cruz and its neighboring municipalities have unceasingly bore the brunt of the catastrophe of this environmental destruction,” it added.

“Consequently, instead of creating sustainable wealth and improving the quality of life of the residents, with the exception of the private respondents and other public respondents who benefitted from it, the lives of the residents have deteriorated,” a portion of the petition stated.

Petitioners claim their farmlands and fishponds have dried up and. The rivers and the seas have been infiltrated with laterites.

They also said air pollution has become manifest and the incidence of asthma and other air borne diseases have spread.

“Worse, the trees that used to protect the inhabitants in the area are gone – causing heavy floods and lateritic mud flow during heavy rains,” the petitioners added.

The petitioners urged the High Tribunal to immediately issue a Temporary Environmental Protection Order and direct the mining firms to immediately take steps which will stop the contamination of farms, villages, and water sources of Sta. Cruz due to unsystematic mining operations and for the PNP Sta. Cruz to enforce environmental laws which include apprehension of violators of mining laws, among others.

The petitioners also asked the High Court after trial on the merits, that it render judgment against all respondents, granting the privilege of the Writ of Kalikasan and Writ of Continuing Mandamus, commanding relief by compelling DENR, MGB and EMB to perform their mandates, under the law, and to take short term and long term measures to conserve whatever remains of the farms and villages of Sta. Cruz and Infanta.

This includes but is not limited to the following: deploying personnel to guard against further polluting of farms and fishponds, unsystematic mining activities, illegal excavations and other forms of mining operations; formulating a comprehensive plan to stop the pollution/contamination of water sources, fishponds and farms resulting from the unsystematic mining operations; beginning the necessary actions for the cancellation of Environmental Compliance Certificates (ECCs) issued to the respondent mining firms.

Petitioners urged the High Tribunal to issue a moratorium for the suspension of all mining operations in Sta. Cruz and to recall or cancel all mining and explorations permits, whether engaged in small or large scale operations, issued to all entities, including those who are not respondents in this case.

Petitioners urged SC to make respondents BNMI, EMI, LAMI, ZDMC, Shangfil, to rehabilitate the portions of farms, fishponds, water sources and other environs which are affected by their unsystematic mining operations; and to undertake at their own expense measures to minimize, and if possible, prevent further contamination of farms, fishponds and water sources.

The petitioners also asked to High Court to order the mining firms to pay fines and penalties as may be prescribed by law, such as but not limited to the setting a rehabilitation fund in the amount of P25 billion as well as to direct DENR through EMB and MGB to make periodic reports on the execution of the final judgment. – Rappler.com

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