Saturday, August 05, 2006

Rapu-rapu Folks Slam Lafayette For Victim Blaming

August 1, 2006

Rapu-rapu Folks Slam Lafayette For Victim Blaming

"The allegation of Lafayette that an outsider entered their premises and sabotage their operation is hogwash. For the past three months, the Rapu-rapu Polymetallic Project of the Lafayette Phils. Inc. (LPI) has been one of the most heavily armed mining operations in the region, how can anyone sneak through their tight security?," argued Antonio Casetas, Chairman of Sagip Isla, Sagip Kapwa, a local alliance opposing the operation of LPI.

"Just look at what happened to Greenpeace which was only document the test run which was supposed to be open to the public!," he added.

"There are now 41 Philippine Army, 20 police forces assigned by the government and 130 security guards that are employed by Lafayette to protect the mining operation. Before Lafayette's entry in Rapu-rapu, the island boasts of having one of the lowest crime rate and the most peaceful communities in Albay province," added Fr. Felino Buaguisan, an assistant parish priest and member of the Sagip Isla Sagip Kapwa alliance in Rapurapu island.

"What does our island, with a record of zero incidents of military encounters between the military and NPAs, need such armed deployment for? If these are not trained on the unarmed locals opposing the operations, I do not think the fish and sea grasses around the island would create such alarm," opined Antonio Casetas, Chairman of Sagip Isla, Sagip Kapwa, a local alliance opposing the operation of Lafayette.

Bugauisan and Casetas appeared today at the sala of the Honorable Judge Dina Teves of the Makati Regional Trial Court, which was hearing the petition for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and Permanent Injunction with Damages against the LPI and the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The Petition, which was signed by over 800 petitioners came in the midst of the 30-day test run, granted by DENR to LPI in spite much controversy in the latter's operations.

"We are requesting the Court to grant the demand of the people of Rapu-rapu and affected Bicol areas to stop Lafayette from destroying our community and environment," says "The recent toxic spill and fish kill during the test-run of LPI once again proves the danger and hazard posed by LPI operations in our island, " Casetas added.

Lafayette has tried to parry recent reports of a third tailings spill and fish kill by blaming the NGOs for sabotage by Leftist and anti-Lafayette groups. "Only an immoral and desperate company can dish out such sick lies as LPI's baseless accusations," says Fr. FeIino Bugauisan. "It is enough that the local parishioners are being burdened with the impacts of LPI's toxic wastes, but to be even blamed them for the company's own wrongdoing is truly unbelievable!

"LPI's allegation is a vile attempt to mislead the public," say Frances Quimpo, executive director of the Center for Environmental Concerns, an environmental research NGO. "The LPI and the government appear to be too desperate to revive its sinking flagship project. LPI is self-destructing but our government is still protecting it. LPI is rehashing its old lies that the mine spills and toxic contamination are a hoax even though several studies, including those of the government's, confirm these. We challenge Lafayette and DENR to subject the latest toxic spill incident to an independent investigation to see who is telling the truth, " Ms. Quimpo explains.

"We are appalled to learn that the DENR took at face value the lame excuse of Lafayette regarding the third toxic spill and fish kill that happened. What the DENR should immediately do is to stop the 30-day test run, conduct an investigation, and heed the recommendation of the Rapu-rapu Fact Finding Commission to permanently close Lafayette," asserted by Clemente Bautista Jr., national coordinator of environmental activist group Kalikasan-PNE.

"We are hoping that the Court will give the people relief from the suffering brought about by mining operation in their island. We want the Court to see that Lafayette, up until recently remains an irresponsible miner as it was and their mining operation is putting in danger the health and welfare of our people especially the Bicolanos. The recent toxic spill, fish kill, and harassments of NGO workers and local people attest to these." Mr Bautista articulated.###

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