MORE than four hundred participants walked out from a public hearing on mining projects led by the Environmental Management Bureau in Punta Malabrigo, Lobo on May 21.

The hearing set to discuss the environmental impact assessment (EIA) reports for two large-scale mining projects in Lobo, Batangas was declared a sham by the people. They were invited to the hearing but were not given full access to the EIA reports submitted by the mining companies. 

Fr. Dakila Ramos of the Archdiocesan Ministry for Environment (AMEN), said they walked out because of the lack of transparency of the government agency and the mining company. Mines and Geosciences Bureau documents indicate that two permits for gold and copper mines exploration has been issued to an Egerton Gold Phils., Inc in 2002 covering a total of almost 1,175 hectares.

Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles who led the walk-out said: “Any public hearing needs full transparency, how could we have transparency in this hearing if we the stakeholders are not given the copy Environmental Impact Statement prepared by the mining company. We only have the executive summary that has no details of their EIA. This public hearing should be declared void. We need the full copy of EIS for us to study it and then we are ready to face them in a public hearing.”

Atty. Carlo Vic Arida the hearing officer, disregarded the concern of the people and insisted that the hearing push through.

The Church leaders, people’s organizations and Alyansa Tigil Mina believes that the EMB planned to conduct the hearing despite the lack of information on how the mining development will impact the communities and environment.

Jaybee Garganera, Alyansa Tigil Mina National Coordinator expressed concern at how the EMB Regional Office conducted the hearing. He said: “At this time, we were expecting the DENR and its different bureaus to be transparent and not keep from us, the public, documents such as EIA reports. These are relevant documents that will give a glimpse of how the mining activities will impact the environment and the people in general, and how the mining company intends to mitigate these negative impacts.

In the end, these documents will inform the decision of the people to allow mining in their province or not. Unfortunately, these scheme of not properly informing the people reflects the lack of responsibility and accountability of the EMB and DENR to its constituents—the public.”

Garganera further called on the agency to declare the May 21 public hearing a failure and conduct a new hearing, only after they have issued copies of the EIA for the public’s review.