COMMUNITIES from the municipalities of Aparri, Buguey and Gonzaga in Cagayan showed their opposition to Peniel Resources Mining Corporation’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in the public hearing held in Buguey, Cagayan last June 23, 2015.

The public hearing was attended by over 200 locals from the three (3) municipalities of Cagayan, Tugegarao Archbishop Sergio Utleg and Buguey Parish priest Rev.Fr. Antonio Pitucan.

Also present were Atty. Carmelo Segui of the EMB head office, members of the EIA review committee, PHILKAIROS Incorporated the commissioned preparer of the EIA report and officials from Peniel Mining Corporation, the proponent of the said hearing.

During the open forum, the communities questioned the effects of the proposed mining operation in the concerned areas and the impacts it will bring to the communities’ primary source of livelihood which is fishing.

Buguey alone has an estimate of 800 fishermen whose fishing grounds are situated in the area of operations of Peniel’s mining project.

“In their report, Peniel is saying that their mining operation will not cause grave environmental and economic impacts to our communities. They are saying that their project will even contribute to the increase of job opportunities.

“All of the things they are claiming are big lies. We have seen how black sand mining destroyed Cagayan before. We have already witnessed how extraction activities can destroy our ecosystem and affect our livelihood, ” said Rosbin Martin, leader of Alliance for Buguey Committed for Development Association (ALBUCODA).

In the Environmental Impact Statement presented by PHILKAIROS Incorporated claimed that the marine lives are far from where the mining operation will be done since the project will be 15 to 20 kilometers away from the shorelines of Aparri, Buguey and Gonzaga.

The presentation also claimed that the communities’ primary source of livelihood will not be affected by the operation. Peniel also announced that they will need 370 skilled workforces for the said project which will be taken from the community.

The data however failed to show the real situation that the communities and the environment will face and the impacts of the mining operation once it starts according to Tugegarao Archbishop Sergio Utleg.

“All mining companies say that their operations will not pose a threat to the communities and the environment until they are already there, polluting our bodies of water, killing our wildlife and marine life, digging through our lands and sands and extracting all the minerals that they can get,” said Archbishop Utleg.

“How can they say that they are not going to affect the livelihood of thousands of our fishermen when their site of operation is in the very heart of our fishing grounds?

“They are saying that their report shows otherwise, well then they might need to check their reports, because if there’s anyone who is lying here, it surely is not us. What do we need to do to emphasize that our communities do not welcome their mining opertions. When will they let us be?” Archbishop Utleg added.

Another part of the public hearing that stirred tension was the admittance of EMB-EIA Review and Evaluation section chief Eng. Esperanza Sajul that there is no final guidelines yet for off shore mining activities.

According to Engr. Sajul, she is not sure of the status of the guidelines, though there is a draft in existence.

National anti-mining coalition Alyansa Tigil Mina which was also present in the public hearing questioned the lack of guidelines and insisted that EMB cease the EIA process until there is a proper and concrete basis for evaluation.

“EMB should not proceed with any evaluation, not until they have provided concrete guidelines for offshore mining activities as there will be no point and basis for the evaluation,” said Jaybee Garganera, National Coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina.

“How can they prove that their results and findings are well founded when there are no guidelines to use as a basis for compliance,” he added.

EIA is a requirement under the Philippine Environmental Impact Statement System ( PEISS) established under the Presidential Decree # 1586. It is a substantial requirement for all mining companies to obtain an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC).

Peniel Resources Mining Corportaion has a Mineral Production Agreement # 337-2010-II-OMR to extract magnetite in the municipalities of Aparri, Buguey and Gonzaga in Cagayan.

The company’s MPSA has a claimed area of 5000 hectares and a project duration of 15 years.