By DEFEND ILOCOS
“It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.” — Ansel Adams, American photographer and environmentalist
The people of Ilocos Sur and the entire Ilocos region have endured long enough the pains and the fears of seeing their pristine coastal environment being destroyed. Magnetite, an iron ore that has been bestowed by nature as a blessing to the people and to provide an armor for our beaches have become the bane and curse of coastal communities and the crowning glory for greedy politicians and mining companies that want to further increase their wealth at the expense of the peoples’ safety and livelihood.
DEFEND Ilocos is taking a stand and taking the battle to the legal arena, with the support of concerned individuals and officials of the Province of Ilocos Sur. We now seek the granting of the Writ of Kalikasan by the Supreme Court.
The Writ of Kalikasan is a legal relief formulated under the watch of former Chief Justice Reynato Puno which seeks to protect the environment and ensure the people’s enjoyment of their right to a healthy and balanced environment. The petition for the Writ of Kalikasan will include the prayer for the cancellation of the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) granted to Altamina Exploration and Resources, Incorporated (ALTAMINA), non-approval of other mining applications, and rehabilitation of the damages caused by the mining operations. These appeals are based on the following grounds:
• The approval of the FTAA on June 29, 2010 is one of the midnight deals of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) and mired with irregularities of which is the failure to conduct community consultations, endorsement from affected local government units, and the signing of former Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza of the agreement in behalf of GMA. The Constitution and the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 clearly states that FTAAs should be approved by the President of the Republic of the Philippines.
• Despite the formal objections filed with the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) against mining applications by the City Government of Vigan and the various pronouncements of opposition by affected local government units, non-government organizations, people’s organizations, and church institutions, the MGB still issued mining permits.
• Allowing mining operation in the coastal areas within the province is contrary to the findings of the MGB and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHILVOCS) which regards the susceptibility of Ilocos Sur to tsunamis, liquefaction, and other natural disasters such as flooding and erosion. Mining operation, especially the extraction of magnetite in the coastal environment will amplify the effects of these geohazards and natural disasters. These pose a greater threat against the lives and properties of the residents in coastal areas.
• Offshore mining will disrupt the balance of the marine ecosystem that may eventually result to the decrease and disappearance of marine flora and fauna, and economic dislocation of communities dependent to the readily available resources from sea.
The importance of this step is not just availing of legal remedies, for this is a procedure which requires a relatively big material and financial resources, which we do not have. But lies with the fact that we are standing to protect our nature and the resources available, to assert the people’s right for a balance and healthy environment, and fight the unending greed of the few and powerful individuals, with all the available means and in all possible arenas of struggle.
We seek environmental justice, more than just environmental protection, for justice comes with ensuring the people’s security for livelihood, shelter, and dignity with preference for those who have less. This is greater than environmental preservation for it encompasses the environment with regards to the long-term needs of people.
We call and enjoin everybody to be part of this expression of concern for our environment and for the next generation. Be one in delivering our demand to end mining plunder and destruction. Dare to stand up and say, “enough is enough” not for what we have now, but for what we may lose tomorrow if we remain to be timid and without care.
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