SANTA CRUZ, Zambales: A sudden turn of events that appear to them like manna from heaven–the Supreme Court issuing a Writ of Kalikasan against five mining firms in the province, the incoming governor announcing his first executive order will be a moratorium on mining activities in Zambales and the appointment of a new Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) secretary that is known for her staunch opposition to irresponsible mining–has put anti-mining advocates here on an upbeat mood.
“We fought against injustice in several arenas, we lost. The Supreme Court gave us hope. I hope they will not dampen, but give us eternal flame,” Concerned Citizens of Santa Cruz (CCOS) chairman Dr. Benito Molino told The Manila Times recently.
Molino and his companions have been fighting against what they call irresponsible and destructive mining operations in the province of Zambales, particularly in the northernmost towns of Candelaria and Santa Cruz.
Residents of the two towns have even tried to put up barricades to stop hauling trucks of mining firms to transport nickel ore from the mine sites to the pier but these only resulted in the arrests of some residents and others facing charges in court.
Their persistence against the difficult odds, however, seemed to have paid off lately with the Supreme Court issuing a Writ of Kalikasan against five mining firms, namely: 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. (SMTC) operating in Zambales.
“The court found the petition sufficient in form and substance to merit the issuance of the Writ of Kalikasan,” said the tribunal in a full-court session.
The High Court also ordered the Court of Appeals (CA) to look into the petition against mining operations in the province.
SC spokesman Theodore Te said the SC referred a petition filed by CCOS to the CA “to receive the appropriate pleadings and conduct hearings hereon.”
Writ of Kalikasan is a legal remedy that provides for the protection of one’s right to a “balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature,” as provided for in Section 16, Article II of the 1987 Constitution.
Newly-elected Zambales Gov. Amor Deloso, who will assume office on July 1 this year, said his first executive order is to issue a moratorium on all mining activities in the province.
Deloso’s declaration affirms his adherence to the SC’s issuance of the Writ of Kalikasan to the five mining companies.
Deloso said once a Temporary Environmental Protection Order is issued, mining operations in the town will be suspended.
If it can be done in Santa Cruz, he added, it would be better to suspend mining operations in other towns in Zambales as well.
“We don’t want Santa Cruz to be submerged in mud again during this rainy season. The safety of the people and the protection of the environment will be first on my agenda, not mining, “ Deloso said.
Molino’s group also rejoiced upon learning that the DENR post has been given to ABS CBN’s Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation chairman Regina “Gina” Lopez, who has been supporting CCOS in their anti-irresponsible mining struggle in the province.
It has met with Deloso and gave suggestions for the green development of the province.
Aside from a province-wide mining moratorium, other suggestions given are: conduct of an environmental audit; compensation for the damage to livelihood and environment; rehabilitation of damaged areas; review and revision of the Environmental Code of Zambales; and push for green development and concrete plan and action to achieve this.