Zambales’ nickel haul blockade enters 3rd day

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SANTA CRUZ, Zambales: Residents continue to defy efforts by authorities to break their barricade long the national highway here stopping hauling trucks of a mining firm from transporting nickel.

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According to Concerned Citizens of Santa Cruz (CCOS) Chairman Dr. Benito Molino, residents of Barangay Bayto and people from other barangays are on their third day blockade preventing haulers of Zambales Diversified Metals Corporation/ DM Consunji Inc. (ZDMC/DMCI) from leaving the quarry site.

CCOS is a non-governmental organization group opposed to mining operations in the province.

Molino said policemen were deployed in the area since Tuesday to maintain order about 200 residents refused to disperse.

A dialogue between the residents and the mining firm with the local officials scheduled on Wednesday night did not push through after the manager of ZDMC/DMCI failed to attend.

He added that former town mayor, Luisito Marty, also attempted to broker a meeting but was ignored by the protesters led by Barangay Bayto councilmen Raul Ecleo and Louie Mirador.

A member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) told The Manila Times that “legally, the residents cannot do it (barricade) and it is a security concern,” and also blamed the slow action of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on the situation.

Lawyer Renato Collado, SP chairman of the committee on legal matters, said the Sangguniang members have issued a resolution for a moratorium on mining activities in Santa Cruz, which the DENR allegedly failed to implement.

“We have made our opinion on mining in Santa Cruz and that is to issue a moratorium on the mining activities there but apparently there was no action yet so you cannot blame the residents of Bayto for their recent actions,” Collado said.

Barangay Bayto is one of the barangays heavily affected by reddish mud floods that surged through the province as aftermath of Typhoon Lando in October last year. The residents blamed the operations of mining firms to have caused the gush of mud in most villages in Santa Cruz as well as the towns of Candelaria and Infanta in Pangasinan.

Last November, Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane, Jr. called for a stop of mining operations in Santa Cruz, saying “there is a need to draw an action plan that would prevent environmental problems spawned by mining activities.”

Ebdane, during a joint public hearing conducted last year, said that long term solutions, not just palliative measures, would be necessary to resolve problems like muddy floodwaters that inundated several barangays in Sta. Cruz at the height of Lando.

Patrick Roxas

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