Lingayen Gulf mining threatens food security, group says
An advocacy group said on Monday that the approval by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) of an offshore mining project in the Lingayen Gulf province of Pangasinan could destroy the marine ecosystem of the region and threaten the livelihoods of fishing communities.
Tugon Kabuhayan was referring to the approved Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) of Iron Ore, Gold and Vanadium Resources Phils. Inc. which would allow it to exploit 9,252 hectares of seabed spanning the towns of Alaminos, Dagupan and San Fernando where magnetite is abundant, an economical material that can be used to make steel.
Asis Perez, president of Tugon Kabuhayan and former director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), said the project was located between two protected areas – the Hundred Islands of Alaminos National Park and the Protective Landscape and the seascape of Agoo-Damortis – and would affect the fishing farms of Sual, considered to be the leading producer of milkfish in the country.
He added that this could be grounds for filing a petition for a kalikasan order, a legal remedy to stop projects potentially damaging to the environment.
“If it’s true that [the DENR has issued] an FTAA without a proper process, then it is possible [ground] for short of kalikasan, ”Perez said. “But cases can only be filed if there are clients, so let’s see what the decision of the communities in the region will be.”
According to Perez, BFAR has not been informed of the offshore project even though up to 250,000 tonnes of production volume comes from Pangasinan.
At least two members of the Pangasinan Provincial Council and a group of local fishermen have already protested the project, calling it disastrous for the marine environment and the province’s fishing industry which could potentially affect at least 5,000 fishermen. .
“We are very concerned about the danger this project will bring to various sectors, including aquaculture. We are also concerned about the food security of the country knowing full well that the government has authorized the importation of fish. We call on the government to examine and study the negative impact of this on the livelihoods of fishing, ”he said.
Fernando Siringan, a well-known geologist from the University of the Philippines, said dredging the seabed would immediately change the nature of the substrate and lead to the resuspension of the material.
“The immediate impact is that you change the nature of the substrate, so whatever benthic organisms are there, they will be disturbed… Anywhere they suck up sediment, there will also be resuspension… ‘they will have the magnetic components, they will return the waste. materials, like the sand particles and the water they used to wash off the mud, ”he said.
“There are several protected areas and key biodiversity areas in the Gulf of Lingayen where resuspended material can go. i really wonder how [the company] is able to obtain permits when it is adjacent to a marine protected area, ”he added.
Vanadium Resources’ FTAA application was approved but not followed by the President’s office during the tenure of the late President Benigno Aquino III.
The Duterte administration referred the request back to the DENR for further assessment. It was then approved again in Malacañang and was finally approved in November of last year.
In April, President Duterte issued Executive Decree No.130 lifting the nine-year ban on the issuance of new mining permits to stimulate more investment in the extractive industry to help the country recover from difficulties financial consequences caused by the coronavirus pandemic. INQ
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