MATI CITY, Davao Oriental – The recent attack of the New People’s Army on the mining site of Mil-Oro Mining Corp. here has not only destroyed equipment of the company and its contractors but has also deprived the residents of their livelihood.
Heracleo Felizarta and Renato Lemente, chieftains of the villages where the tenement of the company is located, said the attack on May 6 has not only deprived the villagers of their source of income, as the company has employed about 800 individuals, but has also devastated the small village enterprises.
“The operations of the company has resulted in better purchasing power of the residents, but the attack has again brought them to where they were before (the time the company entered the villages,” said Felizarta as the tenement is located in the villages of Macambol and Cabuaya in this city.
Also, the attack has again triggered the reliance of some residents on illegal activities like illegal logging and illegal fishing, Lemente added. “During the operations, since their income was better, they forgot these illegal activities,” he explained, pointing out that most of those who were working in the company were those who used to rely in these activities.
Before the entry of the company in the area, the villagers were mainly dependent on farming and fishing while some of them, because of lack of livelihood activities, were engaged in illegal logging and illegal fishing.
On May 6, armed men believed to be members of the rebel group attacked the mine site of the company, the operating company of Hallmark and Australia Asia Mining Corps., and burned down equipment.
In an ensuing press statement, the rebels admitted they were the ones who attacked the mining site.
In contradicting the claim of the rebels, the company said a multi-sectoral body, the Multi-Partite Monitoting Team whose members include government representatives and those coming from independent organziations, has been monitoring its operations which have been found to be aboveboard.
On the claim that it is destroying the Hamiguitan Protected Area, which is a World Heritage Site, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources noted that the company’s present site of operations is about six kilometers from the buffer zone of the protected area which the government has set up. By foot, residents said that it would take one to walk nine hours from the operations site to the buffer zone.
What the public should know, the chieftains added, is that the company has partnered both with the government agencies and its host communities in ensuring that it helps protect the environment as it even relinquished about 7,000 hectares of its mining clains to the protected area and that it has planted about 500,000 trees, both forest and fruit-bearing, to ensure the forest areas are sustained.
On water discharges, the agency said that the company has set up siltation ponds, silt traps and other measures to ensure that the coast adjoining its mining site and port will have clear water. The report added that its water discharges are within the agency’s allowable limits.
On the claim that it is destroying farm, the agency noted that farming mineralized areas, aside from being far from the actual farms, is next to impossible. The operations, on the other hand, cannot affect farms because the mining site as well as the farms are divided by ridges andthat there is no water body that could bring silt to the farms.
The village chieftains added that the company has been supporting their other needs particularly in education that it has built seven school buildings and is planning to add two more this year. It has also been distributing school packages benefiting 2,000 school children in five schools within the host communities.