15 September 2006

we don't want to delve into that

“Technically Lafayette has been compliant with all the conditions. The political and economic issues would be a different matter… we don’t want to delve into that.” So said Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Director Horacio Ramos (Phil. Star, Fri, 8 Sept. 2006, p.2).

What’s wrong with this statement? Two things:

1. A high-ranking DENR official gives advance notice of yet another anomalous government decision: the permanent lifting of the order which suspended the operations of a recidivist multinational mining company, in the aftermath of a series of mine spills and fish kill in October 2005.

2. A virtual announcement of yet another government-Lafayette collusion and whitewash. Ramos, in his great fervor to endorse Lafayette’s mining operations in Rapu-Rapu, admits to have judged as having no practical merit to the case, as far as he/the MGB is concerned, such issues as: Lafayette's glaring lack of social acceptability, its cheating the people of taxes and revenues, its social and economic cost to the lives and livelihood of the locals (which the company tries to assuage with its palliative and deceptive community development programs), its proven destruction of the environment, and the MOST RECENT SERIES OF FISH KILL WHICH HAPPENED ON JULY 2006 - well within the schedule of the test run.

On record in the Rapu-Rapu Sangguniang Bayan minutes: some residents saw several DENR officials on the site of the fish kill, while it was happening. As usual, no picture evidence of the incident ever surfaced. And all this time company representatives were all over the media, preaching their new-found mantra ever since the “take-over” of the “new” board: transparency...responsible mining...transparency... responsible mining...

That is when they weren’t busy accusing Greenpeace and the whole motley of local anti-mining advocates (including, presumably but left unmentioned, the Dioceses of Legazpi and Sorsogon) of staging the fish kill themselves via an elaborate plan that involved smuggling into Rapu-Rapu a sizable volume of pesticide and then stealthily dumping it all into one of several heavily guarded (by both private guards and the military) creeks in the island.

But they don’t have pictures of that Operation Whatever taken either. What they have is made of far stronger stuff: the testimony/rantings of Gov. Raul Lee of Sorsogon in an interview with a notoriously pro-Lafayette PDI Southern Luzon Bureau reporter. How reassuring it is for the people of Sorsogon to hear their governor passionately defend a company coming from foreign lands, operating in another province, yet posing as the gravest threat to date to their own province's booming eco-tourism industry. Pity the butandings, they're no match for Lafayette in enlisting the support of local officials.

What's wrong with the quote again? DENR should be releasing the result of the tests they have presumably conducted during/right after the fish kill, instead the news article where that quote is taken has this for its headline: "DENR says Lafayette fit to resume operations in Rapu-Rapu".

As an afterthought, MGB Director Ramos gives a token display of realism and balance: “We cannot preempt though the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB), which would decide on whether to lift the suspension order or not.” But of course, he doesn't want to preempt the PAB, he just wants to prepare the ground for when their decision comes out.

In a recent mobilization in Legazpi City, a couple or so banners bore the words, "DENR: Destroyer of the Environment and Natural Resources". With public officials like these, that claim might turn out to be closer to reality than we think.

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