SANTA CRUZ, Zambales: Restive residents of a remote village in this town put up a road block to stop a mining company from conducting mining activities within the virgin forest which is the source of water supply to their community.
The barricading residents of Sitio Acoje in Barangay Lucapon South prevented the hauling trucks of Zambales Diversified Metals Corp. (ZDMC), from getting into the forest for its clearing operation.
“ZDMC is mining inside the virgin forest which we have taken cared of for a long time,” Acoje Residents Association chairman Ernesto Dapig said.
Dapig added that the watershed area was spared by Acoje Mining Corp. in the past being the source of clean water for the entire community and even the neighboring areas.
The barricade, which started on May 14, prevented the movement of ZDMC’s hauling trucks but the cutting of trees continues inside the virgin forest.
“Napakalaki po ng problema dahil gusto nila minahin at alisin ang mga punong kahoy kaya nga po nandito kami at nanghaharang at hindi pinalalabas ang kanilang haulers, equipment pati ang diesel na ginagamit nila para mag-back hoe sa watershed, (They want to mine even the watershed and they are now cutting trees that’s why we’re here to block their hauling trucks, equipment and even the diesel which they will use in the back hoe operations inside the forest),” Dapig said.
He said the people of Sitio Acoje are willing to put their lives on the line to stop the operations of ZDMC, a DMCI mining company.
The group also called on concerned sectors for help to stop ZDMC from mining within the virgin forest.
The residents also lamented the fact that officials of Lucapon South barangay and Santa Cruz town have not taken any move or even show up at the barricade site to check and act on the problem.
Dapig said he hopes their problem will get the attention of the incoming administration of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte believing they could get justice for their plight.
Meanwhile, the Concerned Citizens of Sta. Cruz (CCOC), an anti-mining group headed by Benito Molino, said the destruction caused by mining operations in the town continues unabated.
“Before nickel mining started in 2007 around 2,000 hectares of farmland can be irrigated. This year it is down to 800 hectares and they continue to mine the remaining virgin forest,” Molino said.
ZDMC is one of the mining companies operating in Santa Cruz. In January residents of Barangay Bayto here also barricaded the national highway that prevented ZDMC trucks from transporting nickel to a nearby port. The protesters were blaming the rampant mining operations in the town to have caused the destructive mud floods after Typhoon Lando struck in October last year.
The CCOC and residents of neighboring Infanta town in Pangasinan last week filed a Writ of Kalikasan case against the mining companies operating in Santa Cruz, the provincial and town officials of Zambales, as well as DENR officials.