September 9, 2010
Aparri, Cagayan. After conducting a two-day environmental investigative mission in the communities along the Cagayan River, environmental groups reported that the river dredging was being used as a front by foreign mining companies to mine the Cagayan River.
“It is a common knowledge in the communities that several Chinese mining companies are extracting magnetite minerals along the stretch of the Cagayan River for two years now. However, the local government units in Cagayan province still stand by its pronouncement that there are no magnetite mining being done along Cagayan River, “ Clemente Bautista, one of the conveners of the EIM and national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
Environmental groups and the Catholic Church in Cagayan are wary as to why the provincial government contracted foreign corporations to do the dredging in the Cagayan River. The Cagayan Provincial government has denied issuing any permits to private corporations to mine the Cagayan River, the longest and widest river in the country. But in 2009 and in February, July and August of this year, several foreign nationals and vessels were apprehended by police for illegally transporting magnetite minerals out of Cagayan province.
“Local government officials and representatives from Chinese companies told communities that the ‘dredging’ project is intended for flood control and reduction of bank erosion and failures along the river. But based on field information and testimonies gathered by the team, massive river bank erosion is occurring in the area and communities are experiencing higher incidence and intensity of flooding after the ‘dredging’ operation by the Chinese corporations,” said Ric Saturay, a geologist and environmental expert from Center for Environmental Concerns Phils (CEC Phils).
“Apparently the ‘dredging operations’ of the companies tend to focus on extracting minerals in particular areas of the river rather than implementing proper river engineering and flood control principles. Dredging, if not done properly, could worsen problems of flooding and bank failures,” Mr. Saturay added.
During the Pepeng typhoon in 2009, 180 houses were swept away in Aparri and Calamaniugan because of strong current along the areas where the Chinese ‘river dredging’ is located.
“Also, declining fish and shellfish catch in the Cagayan River was reported. The mining or dredging operation can be a possible factor for the decline. Mining can directly affect the river ecosystem by causing massive siltation, destruction of fish breeding grounds, and disruption of habitat of freshwater species in the river,” explained Mr. Saturay.
Kalikasan PNE, Defend PatrimonyI Alliance, Taripnong , CEC Phils in coordination with local organizations organized the EIM to investigate the impacts of magnetite mining in the coastal and riverside communities in the municipalities of Lallo, Gonzaga, Aparri, and Calamaniugan in Cagayan province. A total of 159 community representatives including barangay officials were interviewed by the group. Thirty five participants joined the mission from 10 national and local organizations.
KALIKASAN People’s Network for the Environment