GROUPS are crying foul over payments made by Philex Mining Corporation last week.
Piya Macliing Malayao of indigenous peoples' organization Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP) said the amount paid by Philex should be higher considering the destruction to the communities as well as the environment.
"The penalizing and the payout seem staged for Philex's benefit. This just another PR gimmick of the government’s poster boy for 'responsible' mining," KAMP alleged.
Last week Philex Mining Corporation paid P188.6 million worth of fines to the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB) for the 2012 leak in Padcal.
The fines cover violations against the Philippine Clean Water Act for the discharge of nontoxic water and sediment from Padcal's Tailings facility.
"Philex was quick to pay the P189 fine because they know it is a good deal, they are paying off for killing a 2.5 kilometer-long tributary. That amount is nowhere near the destruction it has caused to the Balog River," Malayao added.
Malayao also raised doubts over the full cleanup and rehabilitation of the Balog Creek and downstream tributaries. An Environmental Investigation Mission was conducted a few weeks after the mine leak, headed by Samahan ng Nagtataguyod ng Agham at Teknolohiya Para sa Sambayanan (Agham). The EIM declared the Balog Creek "biologically dead".
According to the EIM report, no sign of living things or any form of life were found in the Balog River. It also said the river has a high concentration of toxic substances.
KAMP also criticized the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the Department for the Environment and Natural Resources for allowing Philex to use its fines for its own cleanup operations.
"These fines are punishment for unsafe and irresponsible mining practices. To clean, rehabilitate, and compensate affected residents is its responsibility. We demand no less from Philex," Malayao said.
The group demanded the just compensation of affected communities, including downstream communities in Pangasinan.
“Philex should take responsibility and compensate for the adverse effects of its operations in Itogon and Tuba and to the communities downstream of the Agno. The communities of San Manuel, San Felipe East, and San Felipe West were severely affected by the mine spill, in addition to the protracted effects of the five-decade mine operations," Malayao said.