By: Defend Patrimony, Greenpeace and BankTrack
Trixie Concepcion, Defend Patrimony – 63 9158507394 (Philippines) Clemente Bautista, Kalikasan-PNE – 63 9283448797 (Philippines) Beau Baconguis, Greenpeace + 63 917 8036077 (Philippines) Johan Frijns, BankTrack, 31-6-12421667 (Netherlands)
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Rapu-Rapu community leaders, the Bishop of Sorsogon, Philippine and international environmental organizations have all strongly condemned the Philippine government's decision to allow the open-pit mine of Lafayette Philippines Inc. (LPI) in Rapu-Rapu, Albay province to return to full-scale commercial operations.
They warned that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), by granting a so called Permanent Lifting Order, has unleashed a multi-billion peso environmental time bomb and an impending social disaster on the small and fragile island.
Bishop Arturo Bastes, who lead a official fact finding commission on the case, condemned the decision of the DENR Secretary Angelo Reyes, as having "utter and blasphemous disregard for the findings and recommendations issued by official investigatory bodies, particularly the Rapu-Rapu Fact Finding Commission".
"I vehemently object to Sec. Reyes' decision. I believe that everything about the Lafayette project is still defective. Rapu-Rapu people will stage demonstrations to condemn this decision of the DENR on February 11 and 12," the indignant Church leader said.
Defend Patrimony! Alliance Spokesperson and geologist Trixie Concepcion stated: "It's an anti-people and environmentally destructive decision. The people of Rapu-Rapu are already so traumatized and deprived by the damage left by the HIXBAR mining company operating on the island earlier and the previous mine spills of Lafayette, where the land utilized by its operations has turned denuded, barren, acidic, and unproductive.
Lafayette's large-scale mining operations will cause more tragedies and devastation in the island. Through and through the government has revealed how it advances and defends the interest of foreign mining corporations such as Lafayette at the expense of our people and the environment,"
"The mine will only aggravate poverty among the people. Rich opportunities for agricultural development will be obliterated by open-pit mining, forest denudation, landslides, and massive soil erosion. Rapu-Rapu's abundant marine life will also be gradually destroyed, as the cyanide contamination, fish kills demonstrate, and the people's livelihood will be eventually wiped out" she continued.
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms the decision of DENR Secretary Angelo Reyes to allow Lafayette to continue its mining operations," Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of environmental activist group Kalikasan-PNE.
"The DENR has completely ignored the people's strong opposition against the project and the negative impacts that Lafayette has caused to the people of Rapu-rapu and other nearby municipalities. How can the DENR utterly disregard the community displacements, cyanide contamination, fish kills, landslide, militarization, and human rights violations experienced by the local people resulting from the entry and operation of Lafayette? The people have no recourse but to continue and intensify their struggle and protest actions to drive out Lafayette in their island," Bautista said.
The decision to allow reopening of the mine has also provoked strong reactions from international environmental organisations as Greenpeace and BankTrack;
Beau Baconguis, Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia said: “Greenpeace has consistently maintained that Lafayette’s operations will seriously damage Rapu Rapu and its surrounding fragile marine ecosystem. The mine is precariously located along the country’s typhoon belt, in a small and fragile island environment. Its toxic tailings and the inevitable acid mine drainage will continue to pose a clear and present danger to the surrounding environment and the communities who depend on it.
Greenpeace calls on the DENR to reconsider their decision and re-evaluate their priorities. Instead of promoting activities such as mining which destroy our fragile ecosystems, the government should invest in opportunities which promote the protection of our valuable resources.”
"International banks keeping Lafayette afloat are strongly advised not to derive any false reassurances from this decision", said Johan Frijns, coordinator of BankTrack, "the issues that make this a extremely risky investment for any bank pretending to be serious about sustainability will remain. With no social license to operate, leading to continued widespread opposition to the mine, and operating under adverse natural conditions the very same issues that led to the earlier suspension of operations will return on their plate."
"Banks as ABN AMRO, ANZ, JPMorgan Chase and Standard Chartered choose to take a huge ´RapuRaputational´ risk with their continued involvement in this mining operation" said Frijns.