Friday, June 16, 2006

Scientist group to DENR: Heed the peoples' call, do not be protectors of environmental plunderers! shut down Lafayette!

June 14, 2006

Scientist group to DENR: Heed the peoples' call, do not be protectors of environmental plunderers! shut down Lafayette!

AGHAM asserts there is a strong, scientific basis for the closure of Lafayette's operation in Rapurapu.

In a forum recently sponsored by the DENR for Lafayette to give a technical presentation on the company's AMD technology, dam structure and compliance to the government's recommendations, scientist-reactors clearly pointed out that Lafayette has yet to accomplish all the recommendations of various regulatory bodies with regard to the tailings incident. Serious doubts about the viability and efficiency of Lafayette's technology for AMD prevention and control in Rapu-rapu were also raised by the chemists in the panel. A reactor engineer emphasized the weaknesses of the LPI's dam design such as the inappropriate use of rainfall data for flood prediction and the insufficient freeboard height of the dam. It was also raised why the vertical acceleration due to earthquakes was not considered in the design despite being an important factor in dam stability.

With regards to Lafayette's pronouncement of using "state of the art technology" upon resuming operations in the island, AGHAM argues that it is not primarily the question of having the technology. The more important question is the commitment of the company to utilize the technology despite its cost and effect on profits. The tailings spills did not really involve "state of the art technology". Knowing this, Lafayette can never be trusted in utilizing expensive, "state of the art technology" when it has failed to implement and properly use even cheap and simple technology such as the tailings dam and events pond.

Despite the project's flagship status and the privileges accorded to it by the government, Lafayette has chosen to shortchange the Filipino people by not complying with the environmental safeguards it has agreed to. Furthermore, the falsification of legal documents, underreporting of mined ores and processed metals, and undervaluation of taxes reveal the company's blatant disregard for the government's authority and more importantly, our nation's sovereignty.

The current pronouncement of DENR Secretary Reyes suggest that Lafayette enjoys a preferential treatment from our government. Moreover, Reyes has become the spokesperson for La Fayette. With the Bastes Commission report, and the people's call being ignored by MalacaƱang officials and the DENR, transnational mining companies can easily come here in the Philippines at the least possible cost—they can plunder our mineral wealth, destroy our environment and livelihood, endanger our people's health and finally get away with it just as easily.

On the other hand, such decision only exposes and highlights the essence of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995: the government gives primary importance to transnational mining companies in expense of genuine national industrialization, the people's welfare and the environment.
*Mr. Saturay is a Geologist/Instructor at the National Institute of Geological Science, University of the Philippines Diliman, and an active member of AGHAM.

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