SC to Zambales mining firms: Prove you're not harming environment
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Supreme Court (SC) en banc on Tuesday, June 21, issued a writ of kalikasan against 5 mining firms operating in Zambales, ordering them to defend themselves before the appellate court.
The High Court found merit in the petition filed by the residents of Santa Cruz town in Zambales, a province north of Manila. Joining them in the petition are residents of the neighboring towns Candelaria, also in Zambales, and of Infanta, which is part of Pangasinan province.
The SC, however, was silent on the complainants' accompanying petition for a Temporary Environmental Protection Order (TEPO) to be issued against the mining firms.
The writ of Kalikasan may be sought to deal with environmental activities that threaten to bring damage to life, health, or property of residents in at least two localities. It is a legal remedy that is supported under the 1987 Constitution.
Section 16, Article II, says the "state shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature."
On May 20, the residents, led by anti-mining advocate Concerned Citizens of Santa Cruz (CCOS), filed before the SC a petition for writ of kalikasan against the following mining firms:
- Benguet Corporation Nickel Mines Incorporated
- Eramen Minerals Incorporated
- LNL Archipelago Minerals Incorporated
- Zambales Diversified Metals Corporation
- Shangfil Mining and Trading Corporation
Also named as respondents are environmental and local officials.
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.
Specifically, the resident accuse the 5 mining firms of the following:
- Destruction of the ecosystem in Santa Cruz, Zambales, and its neighboring municipality of Candelaria, Zambales, extending up to Infanta, Pangasinan
- Water, air, and soil pollution
- Heavy laterite siltation of river systems, coasts, farmlands, fish ponds, and residential areas
- Forest denudation, resulting in soil erosion
- Exacerbated flood problems during typhoons and heavy rains
- Destruction of irrigation system in Santa Cruz, Zambales, which severely reduced the palay production of the rice granary of Zambales
- Heavily affected the livelihood of residents
In an email to Rappler on Tuesday, June 28, Benguetcorp Nickel Mines Incorporated said, "As soon as we receive the SC resolution, we will answer the allegations of siltation and other damages by presenting proof of our good environmental management."
The SC referred the complaint to the Court of Appeals, which will hear the pleadings of parties involved. It ordered the respondents to submit to the CA their verified return within 10 days upon receipt of the SC order. – Rappler.com
(Editor's Note: An earlier version of this report incorrectly indicated that a TEPO was issued by the Supreme Court together with the writ of kalikasan. We regret the error.)