• 3-day solidarity mission set for ‘gold rush’ town

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    ZAMBOANGA CITY: The Advocates for Peace and Rural Missionaries of the Philippines are set to hold a three-day solidarity mission in the town of Bayog in Zamboanga del Sur.

    Organizers said the human rights group Karapatan is also joining the mission on July 15 whose purpose is “to share compassion and concrete love for the very least, exploited and disadvantaged sector particularly those suffering from the impact of large-scale mining operations.”

    It also said that a feeding program would be held among the children and the poor in the town of Bayog. A tree planting will also follow in an effort to rehabilitate the lost flora and fauna in the area. A press conference is set on July 17.

    Delegates from various towns in western Mindanao will be ferried in chartered buses to the town. Pick up points have been set up in the cities of Zamboanga, Pagadian, Dipolog and Ozamiz, including the town of Ipil.

    “The cost of staging this mission comes from solicitations and donations from peace and environment advocates themselves,” organizers said.

    Bishop Antonio Ablon, one of the conveners of the Advocates for Peace, said they expect over a hundred people and supporters, mostly environmental and peace advocates to join the solidarity mission.

    “We are expecting about 100 people or more to join this solidarity mission and we are encouraging everyone to support this mission for the sake of the indigenous people,” he told The Manila Times.

    Organizers said that, TVI Resource Development (Phils.) Inc. has been exploring the town for gold and fears that its richness would be ravaged by the firm.

    “Since its arrival, TVI started open-pit mining operations under a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement covering 4,779 hectares. With the authorization of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in Western Mindanao, it has forcibly displaced farmers and indigenous peoples.

    “In Balabag, for instance, about 250 small-scale miners and some 5,000 residents, who have been making such livelihood since 1980, have been dislocated. The impact of TVI’s open-pit operation is equally horrible to the environment. The extraction activity is unending: seven days a week, 24 hours a day, disrespecting sacred sites of the indigenous peoples, watersheds, forest reservations and farms. Vast rice fields down Bayog town have also been affected. TVI operations have upset food security for the majority who depend on agricultural productions and small-scale mining,” it said.

    But TVIRD has in the past denied all accusations against them by environmentalists and human rights groups, saying the company follows a strict environmental compliance in accordance to international stan-dards. It also said that those engaged in small-scale mining activities were illegal and had no permits to operate within its MPSA area.

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