SANTA CRUZ, Zambales: Anti-mining advocate Concerned Citizens of Sta. Cruz (CCOS) and residents of Infanta, Pangasinan filed before the Supreme Court (SC) a writ of kalikasan against the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), local officials of Zambales and five mining firms to put an end to what they claim as destructive mining operations in the province.
The petitioners asked the SC to issue a temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) and direct the mining firms, the provincial government of Zambales and the municipality of Sta. Cruz to immediately take steps to stop the contamination of farms, villages and water sources of Sta. Cruz resulting from their unsystematic mining operations; and for the local Philippine National Police to enforce environmental laws, including apprehension of violators, among others.
Respondents in the case filed on Friday were DENR Secretary Ramon Paje; outgoing Zambales Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane Jr.; Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) director Leo Jasareno; former acting Region 3 MGB director Danilo Uykieng; MGB-Region 3 OIC Lope Carino, Jr.; Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) director Juan Miguel Cuna; EMB-Region 3 director Lormelyn Claudio; and outgoing Santa Cruz municipal Mayor Consolacion Marty.
Also included in the complaint were MGB Multipartite Monitoring Team head Lauro Garcia Jr.; EMB-3 former Multipartite Monitoring Team head Dennis Celestial; Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO)-Zambales OIC Laudemir Salac; Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) Zambales OIC Raymond Rivera; members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan ng Zambales; incoming Santa Cruz mayor Luisito Marty, under whose term mining operations started in the town; members of the Sangguniang Bayan ng Sta. Cruz; and Chief Insp. Orlando Reyes, Sta. Cruz Police Station chief.
Likewise included as respondents are officers and directors of Benguet Nickel Mines, Inc. (BNMI); Eramen Minerals, Inc (EMI); LnL Archipelago Minerals, Inc. (LAMI); Zambales Diversified Metals Corp. (ZDMC) and Shangfil Mining and Trading Corp.
CCOS chairman Dr. Ben Molino and his co-petitioners said that the continued operations of the mining companies in Santa Cruz town violate RA 7942, otherwise known as the Mining Act of 1995 and its implementing rules and regulations.
They lamented that the continued operation of the mining companies is causing much destruction in the mountains, watershed, forests, farmlands, water systems and livelihood of all residents and posing a continued threat to their lives.
They cited in their petition the destructive impact of a number of typhoons in the past few years resulting from unsystematic mining operations in the town.
They said the public respondents named have been remiss in their duties in implementing existing environmental laws and regulations.
The CCOS urged the high tribunal to render judgment against all respondents, granting the privilege of the writ of kalikasan and writ of continuing mandamus, commanding relief by compelling the DENR, MGB and EMB to perform their mandates, and to take measures to conserve whatever remains of the farms and villages of Sta. Cruz and Infanta towns where the mining firms operate.
They also specifically asked to make respondent mining firms to rehabilitate the portions of farms, fishponds, water sources and other areas affected by their unsystematic mining operations; and to undertake at their own expense measures to minimize and prevent further contamination of the environment.