Police brutality and land grabbing are some of the human rights violations recorded during the 2-day National Fact Finding Mission (NFFM) in Sta. Cruz, Zambales led by Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE). Aside from the widespread ecological degradation, worsened health conditions were also suffered by the residents due to several nickel mining operations in Zambales.
“Zambales PNP Provincial Command deployed Municipal police personnel from Sta. Cruz and Malimanga upon the request of the mining company David M. Consunji Incorporated (DMCI). The police employed excessive force against the barricaders which resulted 17 protesters hurt. The protesters have video and testimonies to prove this,” said Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
During a focus group discussion (FGD), the barricaders in Brgy. Bayto account their experience about the police harassments and intimidation. Also, cases of land-grabbing by local government officials were recorded. A barangay official from Lucapon South who is also involved in mining operation in Sta. Cruz has land-grabbed hectares of forest areas for nickel mining.
“Large-scale nickel mining operations in Zambales are proven detrimental not only to our environment, but to people’s rights and safety as well,” Bautista added.
Four (4) mining companies with Mineral Production and Sharing Agreement (MPSA) are currently operating in the municipality covering more than 12,000 hectares of land, extracting Nickel and Chromite. These are Zambales Diversified Mining Corp. (ZDMC), Filipinas Mining (LAMI), Benguet Nickel Mining Inc., and Eramen Minerals Corp. These corporations are doing surface mining which strip the mountains of forest and vegetation in Sta. Cruz to get nickel laterites. These laterites are hauled and exported to China. These companies were into various issues last year due to violations in environmental standards and were suspended by the DENR.
“Community members have confirmed to us that there is an increase in the prevalence of upper respiratory infection especially among children. According to them, dusts from hundreds of trucks passing by their communities loaded with mined soils may have caused this trend,” said Rhea Candog, Environmental Researcher of Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC).
The groups noted that during a medical study on December 2015 and February 2016, diseases such as cough and asthma were the most numerous cases observed among residents of the said municipality. Local health workers have also confirmed the spike of these kinds of diseases concomitant to the operations of mining.
“We will use these data in our campaign to stop mining in Zambales. We will protest and file legal complaints to hold DMCI and other mining companies accountable. We are campaigning zero-vote on May election against Zambales provincial officials and candidates who are obviously failed to protect the health, safety and livelihood of Zambalenos from destructive mining, primarily against current Zambales Governor and former PNP Chief Hermogenes Ebdane,” Bautista ended.
Among the groups that joined the mission is Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC), Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM), Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Redemptorist Church, Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL), Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – Central Luzon (BAYAN–CL) and Move Now!–Zambales