Surigao tribesmen seek writ of kalikasan

A petition for Writ of Kalikasan was filed before the Supreme Court (SC) Monday afternoon with prayer for issuance of a Temporary Environmental Protection Order(TEPO) by the Tribal Coalition of Mindanao(TRICOM) and several tribal communities for the immediate stop of  alleged illegal mining operations of 5 mining companies in Surigao del Sur and Surigao del Norte.

Petitioners TRICOM, Daging Manobo Sectoral Tribal Counci, Urbistondo Manobo-Mamanwa Sectoral Tribal Council, Kinalablaban Sectoral Tribal Coucil, Cabangahan Tribal Community-Manobo Tribe, Victoriano C. Vidal and Datu Willy Daging accused respondents Taganito Mining Corporation, Platinum Group Metals Corporation, Oriental Synergy Mining Corporation, Shenzhou Mining Group Corporation, and Marcventures Mining and Development Corporation of destroying and polluting their ancestral domain in the towns of Cantilan and Carascal in Surigao del Sur and Claver in Surigao del Norte by failing to provide proper siltation dams for their nickel mines.

"Respondents mining companies operated without providing sedimentation or siltation dams or barriers which are necessary to prevent erosion and siltation of the rivers and creeks(Taganito River, Henadkaban River, Pangabihon River, Hamoyawon Creek, Hayanggabon River, Cagdinao River, Capangdan Creek and Kinalablaban River). As such, these once wide, clean and free-flowing rivers and creeks could no longer be recognized because they were either completely or partially covered by eroded soil and Nickel stock piles, or they were also excavated or mined by respondents mining companies as extended mining operation area.

Apparently, these rivers and creeks are connected, either by themselves or through tributaries, to the coastal water of Claver in Surigao del Norte, and Carascal and Cantilan in Surigao del Sur,” the 22-page petition read.

Petitioners also alleged that respondent mining companies also irresponsibly placed stock piles of nickel and other minerals in coastal waters near the ports where they load these minerals.

These “irresponsible and illegal mining operations inevitably resulted in the siltation or pollution of coastal waters, rivers and creeks, irreversibly damaged marine resources, mangroves and corals, and created serious health risks to the prejudice of the lives, health and properties of the tribes and inhabitants of the Provinces of Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Norte,” petitioners alleged.

Residents who ate fishes and other marine life in the affected areas allegedly suffered difficulties in breathing, skin rashes, vomiting, and lost bowel movement, among others. This reportedly led residents to “abandon swimming and fishing in coastal waters, rivers and creeks.”

"Scientific studies show that high level exposure of humans to Nickel results to cancer, respiratory failure, asthma and chronic bronchitis, and heart disorders among others. Potential cancerous effects of extreme exposure to nickel cannot be over-emphasized."

The petition also alleged that the burial grounds, prayer areas, sacred mountains, and hunting areas of the tribes were also destroyed — some of these allegedly bulldozed.

As evidence, respondents presented an analysis by the University of the Philippines Natural Sciences Research Institute(UP-NSRI) in Diliman Quezon City of water and soil samples taken from the mentioned river and water systems.

Results showed nickel levels (milligram per liter) of as high as 190 mg/L while the maximum acceptable level of nickel in drinking water should only be at 0.02 mg/L according to the Department of Health(DOH) and Bureau of Food and Drugs(BFAD).

"This means that the waters in the rivers and creeks, as well as the coastal waters of Claver in Surigao del Norte and also in Carascal and Cantilan in Surigao del Sur, are already poison to those who swim in those waters and those who eat fishes, shells and other sea foods found therein," the petition read.

The UP-NSRI also examined soil samples from a mangrove area in Urbistondo, Surigao del Sur where the level of nickel was at 12,400 mg/Kg. The maximum tolerable content of nickel is only at 50 mg/KG according to data presented by UP-NSRI.

Also named as respondents in the petition are Ramon Paje, in his capacity as secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources; Director Dominador Gomez, Regional Director of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples in Region XIII; Director Alilo Ensomo Jr., Regional Director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in Region XIII; Director Ester Olavides, Regional Director of the Environmental Management Bureau in Region XIII; the provincial government of Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur.

(Source: rp1.abs-cbnnews.com)