Zambales anti-mining protest continues; charges filed

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SANTA CRUZ, Zambales: Residents refused to lift the barricade here even as 11 persons, including a municipal councilor and two village councilmen, were charged for violation of the Mining Act of 1995 upon the complaint of Zambales Diversified Metals Corp. (ZDMC) Inc.

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Facing charges are Santa Cruz municipal councilor Zenaida Mayor, Barangay Kagawad Raul Ecleo and Louie Mirador, Pastor Edgardo Obra, Josephine Ignacio, Concerned Citizens of Sta. Cruz (CCSC) chairman Benito Molino and secretary general Josephine Astadan, Salvador Cortes, Luisa Serrano, Christopher Marzan, and Jerome Merano.

Serrano and Marzan, who were picked up along with Merano and Reyes during a standoff on weekend, were taken to the capitol town of Iba on Tuesday morning to face charges for violating Section 107 of the Mining Act of 1995 (RA 7942).

Section 107 of RA 7942 states that “Any person who without justifiable cause, prevents or obstructs the holder of any permit, agreement or lease from undertaking his mining operations shall be punished, upon conviction by the appropriate court, by a fine not exceeding P5,000 or imprisonment not exceeding one year, or both, at the discretion of the court.”

Serrano was arrested on Saturday while documenting efforts of the police to break the barricade, while Marzan was arrested on Sunday who was at the barricade with other protesting residents.

Molino said that a number of residents were hurt when police on weekend tried to break the barricade. He said that the injured were denied a medico-legal certificate by a hospital where they sought treatment unless they present a clearance from the barangay chairman.

The police officers, identified only as “Menor,” “Reyes” and “Siquig,” allegedly aided about 100 ZDMC workers who forcibly broke through the human barricade and arrested four protesters. Two residents –Merano and Daniel Reyes – were later released. Reyes is reportedly a minor.

Protesting residents of Barangay Bayto and neighboring barangay put up a barricade along the national highway that prevented ZDMC trucks from hauling nickel ore to the port for more than two weeks.

The Manila Times on Tuesday tried to reach Santa Cruz mayor Consolacion Marty for comment but her staff said she was in an out-of-town meeting.

Residents of Barangay Bayto and several barangay in Sta. Cruz recalled that on Oct. 18, 2015, a reddish mud flood cascaded from the mountain. Two residents died and many farm animals also perished, aside from the destruction of their farmlands and fishponds. Residents blamed the huge loss of livelihood on the alleged destructive mining operations.

But their anger was further aggravated when the provincial government said the mining companies were not responsible for the town’s flooding.

According to sources, an agreement was reached in 2013 and 2014 that mining companies will build their own road to continue their mining operations, but this was not realized and the firms continued their operations.

The inaction and seeming indifference of the provincial and municipal officials prompted the residents to block the ZDMC trucks from hauling the minerals from the mine site in January.

The ZDMC, owned by DM Consunji, Inc. (DMCI) Holdings, Inc., was contracted by Benguet Nickel Mines, Inc. (BNMI) to mine Area 1 of BNMI in Sta. Cruz. Area 1 was said to have caused severe destruction in the inner barangay of Santa Cruz, particularly the farmlands and the Alinsaog River.

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