YOUTH organizations, student councils, non-government organizations (NGOs), civil society and concerned groups and sectors have raised their growing indignation on the alleged black sand mining plan under the guise of dredging, declogging and desiltation in the resource-rich coastlines of Negros.
The groups, in a joint statement, said they join local fisherfolks and communities that will be highly affected by this "environmentally-destructive project" in their opposition to suck out black sand in the coastlines and deplete the bounty marine resource of the province.
The E.B. Magalona Small Fisherfolks Alliance (EBMASFA) has said that as affected coastal communities, they were never informed nor consulted on this important matter.
The EBMASFA, along with other environmental groups, said they have called the attention of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Environment Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) before the start of the activity.
They had also submitted a complaint regarding the public scoping for the proposed "river restoration and coastal rehabilitation project" through dredging.
The First Terradev Corp. and Geo Alto will be responsible for the project and its funding after the approval of the DENR, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and Department of Transportation (DOTr).
There was no mention of "black sand mining" in their proposals and environmentalists have been called "ignorant" due to their inquiries and vigilance.
However, dredged materials include silt, mud, dirt and sand.
The groups, in a press statement, said research has shown that E.B. Magalona is rich in black sand locally known as margaha.
Part of the proposal was that the dredging ship will have 30 Chinese nationals on board, and the dredged materials will be brought to places that have reclamation projects.
"We refuse to believe that this is for river restoration and coastal rehabilitation alone. With this project entirely funded by the private entities and at no cost to the government, this is nothing but a wolf in sheep's clothing," the groups said.
It disguises itself as a solution when it is in fact a destructive, unsustainable and unjust effort to abuse Negros' rich resource, they added.
The joint statement further said that multiple pieces of research showed that the mining of black sand will exacerbate the impact of climate change-driven sea-level rise.
It cited a village along the coastline of Gonzaga town in Cagayan province, where 100 houses used to stand, is now submerged underwater after years of black sand mining.
"It is also important to highlight that before this project drowns the communities of our fellow Negrosanons, it will drown us with economic incapacity by negatively affecting the multi-billion blue crab industry in the area," it said.
"We urge the local government of E.B. Magalona through Mayor Marvin Malacon, the Provincial Government of Negros Occidental, and the four national agencies such as the DENR, DILG, DPWH and DOTr to scrap this project funded by private corporations and seek scientific, sustainable and pro-people solutions to the alleged issue of flooding in the area, which they used as a justification for the dredging or the mining of black sand," the groups said.
They demand transparency for the project, the background of the funders and the proponents, what materials will be dredged, and where they will be shipped.
"We also invite them to respect and properly dialogue with the community leaders and concerned citizens, and not merely resort to calling us ignorant," they added.
The statement also said that "with the crisis brought about by the pandemic, which is a result of environmental plunder, we need to rethink our ways of doing things."
"We, especially the youth, renew our commitment to fight what is left for us and protect vulnerable communities from destructive extractive industries pretending to be a development project," it said.
"We commit to keep an eye on this project and do our best to protect the fisherfolks of E.B. Magalona as destructive industries are not allowed in Negros," it said.
The statement was signed by representatives of Negros Environmental Watch, Green Alert Network, Group of Environmental Socialists, Youth for Climate Hope, Bacolod CORE, Linghod, Social Action Center - Diocese of Bacolod, Negrosanons Against Magnetite Mining Y-Lead, UP Visayas - Biology Society, Akbayan Youth - Bacolod, Tribu Duag, Tolentine Star, Mangrove Matters PH, SCAP - Diocese of Bacolod, SAMALAYA-SAGES, Freedom from Debt Coalition - Negros, Negrosanon Young Leaders Institute, Lunhaw - Ecology Desk of the Diocese of San Carlos, La Consolacion College Bacolod - SHS Government, Amnesty International - Philippines - Negros Occ Youth, Task Force Detainees of the Philippines - Negros, University of St. La Salle - Student Government and Christ's Y.
It can be recalled that First Terradev Corp. President and Chief Executive Officer Eric Tagle said it is a public-private partnership where the government made the plans and will direct the project.
"We will fully comply with government laws and regulations imposed on the project we will undertake in E.B. Magalona," Tagle added.
E.B. Magalona Mayor Marvin Malacon, for his part, said the project is the answer to the flooding problem of the town.
Malacon has called the environmental groups opposing the project "ignorant of the project."
"They keep on asking the same questions, some of which were irrelevant and nonsense. But we need to address all their inquiries," he said. (EPN)