• Three arrested in protest vs mining firm

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    SANTA CRUZ, Zambales: Three residents of this barangay have been arrested by the police over the last two days and a man was reportedly hurt as more than 200 residents continue blocking the national highway here to prevent hauling trucks of a mining company from transporting nickel ore to the port.

    Concerned Citizens of SantaCruz (CCOS), a group opposed to mining operations in the province, identified the arrested residents as Christopher Marzan and Daniel Reyes, who were both arrested on Sunday morning while a certain Luisa was arrested on Saturday.

    All three were reportedly jailed, with Luisa said to be charged with obstructing the hauling of nickel by the police.

    Another resident who joined the barricade was reportedly hurt by policemen.

    Molino said the man, identified only as Jerome, was part of those barricading the road when he was attacked by policemen who allegedly punched and kicked him, and who even tried to take him to the municipal jail but was prevented after he was rescued by other barricading residents.

    Some of the policemen reportedly removed their nameplates while attacking him.

    Bayto residents have disrupted the transporting of nickel from the mine site to the port by Zambales Diversified Metals Co. Inc. (ZDMC) for more than two weeks preventing hauling trucks of the mining firm to pass through a blockade they put up at a section of the national highway here.

    On Sunday, some 30 policemen and more than a 100 workers of ZDMC appeared at the barricade in Bayto after 26 trucks were prevented from passing through.

    A police chief tried to convince the residents to let the hauling trucks pass but this was rejected by the residents of the barangay and a stand-off ensued.

    The hauling trucks later decided to break the stand-off and with the assistance of the police, tried to force its way past the people barricading the national highway. But the barricading residents were able to stand their ground causing the trucks to withdraw later and return to their garage.

    Dr. Benito Molino, CCOS chairman, said they reminded the police of their obligation in peacekeeping and to respect the peaceful struggle of the people to defend their rights.

    When police appeared at the barricade on Sunday, they were already armed with riot shields.

    The mining firm, according to Molino, started talks with residents of Bayto last week but nothing positive came out of it and the residents continued their barricade.

    Samuel Ablola, a member of the Sangguninang Panlalawigan of Zambales, posted a comment on the Facebook page of Molino on Sunday saying it is the national government that gives permits to mining companies to operate through the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.

    So he said local officials should not be blamed for the mining problem in Santa Cruz.

    “The only thing the local government can do is request the national government on what to do regarding mining activities,” Ablola’s post stated.

    He added that the provincial government has long opposed the mining operation in the locality but the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement of mining companies from the national government are guaranteed effective by the Mining Act.

    “Last December, the provincial government issued a resolution requesting the national government for a moratorium on mining operations in Santa Cruz,” Ablola said.

    PATRICK ROXAS

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