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Opposition Mounts vs San Miguel Bay Mining

source: danny o. calleja |

San Miguel Bay viewed from Calabanga, Camarines Sur

San Miguel Bay viewed from Calabanga, Camarines Sur

CALABANGA, Camarines Sur, Nov. 24  – It may be an uphill battle but local leaders opposed to the proposed offshore magnetite exploration at the marine life-rich San Miguel Bay are standing their ground.

They fear massive environmental degradation and economic dislocation of thousands of fisher folk around the bay should the mining operations push through.

The mining would be initiated by Bogo Resources and Mining Corporation (BRMC), a Filipino-Korean firm.

“We do not want the natural wealth of San Miguel Bay and the source of livelihood for thousands of our marginalized fishery sector relying on its rich marine resources to be compromised,” Evelyn Yu, the mayor of this first class municipality that derives most of its revenue from local agriculture and fishing industries, said.

The town’s legislative council had also signified its strong opposition to the mining projects and Yu said they aired that position as early as last July on learning about the exploration permit obtained by BRMC from the regional office of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The permit, Yu said, was applied for in November last year but they were told about it only sometime early last July following their assumption of their new terms of office.

“It was already approved when laid down to us,” Yu complained.

“Our position against this project was not based on our personal belief and opinion. We arrived at this position following public consultations. Our constituents are all-out against this mining project,” the lady mayor said.

The Municipal Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (MFARMC) here has joined the municipal government in opposing the planned exploration and subsequent mining of magnetite from the bay.

In a resolution passed and sent to EMB regional director Reynulfo Juan, the MFARMC stressed “that this exploration activity will pose hazards to the environment and will eventually put the residents in the area vulnerable to disasters.”

From the nearby town of Tinambac, Mayor Ruel Velarde aired the same position saying, “The people of Tinambac have spoken. They are against this mining venture as they want to preserve the natural resources of San Miguel Bay. So, to the EMB and BRMC, our appeal is: Please leave the bay alone.”

The town government of Tinambac has placed its municipal waters within the San Miguel Bay covering five kilometers from the shoreline under protection as a fishing ground.

The bay is a shallow, estuarine body of water covering an area of 1,115 square kilometers within seven coastal municipalities — Mercedes and Basud in Camarines Norte and Sipocot, Cabusao, Tinambac, Siruma and this town in Camarines Sur.

It is surrounded by at least 74 barangays that are home to nearly a 100,000 population relying largely on fishing for their livelihood. The bay, which possesses a fragile biodiversity and ecosystem, is habitat of around 20 commercial fish species being supplied to local markets reaching up to Metro Manila.

In this town alone, according to Yu, almost 2,000 fishing families in 11 barangays would be denied of their main source of income by this planned magnetite or black iron ore exploration covering an approximate area of 6,100 hectares.

Based on its permit, BRMC would be conducting offshore drillings, the first of its kind in the country, to gather magnetite samples for laboratory testing to determine the mineral quality of the sand. The initial exploratory step could last for two years and entails digging 500 meters from the shoreline a gutter five hectares in width and five meters deep.

Mayors Rogenor Astor and Neb Santiago of Sipocot and Cabusao towns respectively are also opposed to the magnetite exploration in San Miguel Bay and said they would formalize that position through resolutions which their respective town councils will pass soon.

Astor said he had five prime villages to be affected by the project while according to Santiago who had four big barangays within the area, only when the planned exploration and mining activities guarantee that the environment and biodiversity of the bay are not disturbed that he would agree to it.

Iron ore or magnetite is used as alloy in the production of steel. China and Korea are the countries where huge demand for this mineral emanates. EMB records show that this mineral is predominantly present in Bikol as well as Cagayan and Zamboanga. (PNA)


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