Some areas that were devastated by Typhoon Ketsana (local name, Ondoy) have not even been reached yet and already new reports of deaths, flooding and landslides brought on by the lingering Typhoon Parma (local name, Pepeng) have been circulating. This time, the disasters in the Northern regions of Luzon are clearly exacerbated by destructive activities further degrading environmental conditions such as large scale mining, clear-cutting of forests and big damn projects that the people of Cordillera have been fighting all along. Please see attached appeal from the Cordillera People’s Alliance and Bayan’s press release below.
|News Release October 10, 2009
Bayan seeks probe of large-scale mining, dam operations in Northern Luzon
The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan today called on the Arroyo government to probe the large-scale mining operations in the province of Benguet which may have aggravated the effects of typhoon Pepeng. Massive landslides hit the province since Monday when the storm made its second landfall. The group also is pushing for a probe into the San Roque Dam’s release of water which is said to be responsible for the massive flooding in Pangasinan.
According to reports by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), Bayan’s regional chapter, as many as 121 may have died in landslides in Benguet , 54 in Baguio City with 5 still missing and 23 in Mountain Province with 32 still missing. The CPA says a total of 18 landslides were documented, 11 in Baguio City, 6 in Benguet and 1 in Mountain Province.
Among the communities affected by landslides are the Mankayan and Itogon municipalities in Benguet. These are also known mining areas. The same is the case with Tublay town, which was also a mining community.
Bayan and the CPA have launched a relief drive along with continuing rescue operations in some areas.
The groups have long assailed large-scale corporate mining operations in the region as being environmentally disastrous for the community, causing denudation of forests and soil erosion. Benguet for example has hosted large mines for over a century now and has a history of deadly landslides. It is particularly vulnerable during typhoons.
Bayan is calling for a probe to determine the effects of the nearby mining operations on the landslides.
“When the rescue and relief work is done, the Arroyo government should have political will to investigate the causes of the landslides and floods. The devastation that happened in Northern Luzon is a bitter wakeup call on the effects of mining and dams in the region. Extractive industries such as mining cause irreparable environmental destruction,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.
“What we saw last Friday is terrifying reminder of the extent of the environmental damage that has been done to the region. There should be a stop to the destructive large-scale corporate mining,” he added.
In the past, Bayan and the CPA have also opposed the construction and operation of the San Roque Dam. They say that any flood control capacity would be undermined by the great possibility that the dam will silt up immediately. When filled with sediments, the dam would no longer be able to hold much water except to run its turbines.
According to the CPA, “during its operational lifespan of 50 years, the SRD can be expected to collect a total of 269 million cubic meters of sediment from upstream sources including abandoned open pit mines, mineral tailings, muck waste dumps and denuded mountain slopes of the southern Benguet mining district.”
The group also said that the steady silt build-up “will induce upstream flooding along the Agno river and its tributaries.” This they say will result in downstream flooding of at least 1,250 square kilometers of land every time torrential rains force the opening of the dam’s gate. The CPA’s study showed that the maximum flood rate can be as much as 12,800 cubic meters per second.
Bayan believes that both structural and management issues of the San Roque Dam should be looked into.
“Government should determine if structurally, the dam indeed functions as a flood control system or if it is really a profit-driven venture that has compromised the safety of the nearby communities. The probe should also check if the operators of the dam should have gradually released water earlier, given available data of consistently rising water levels,” Reyes said.
“The opposition to the San Roque Dam has long been brought to the attention of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Studies from the Cordillera activists and environmental groups have been forwarded to her office when she assumed power,” he added.
Bayan’s Bayanihan Alay sa Sambayanan (BALSA) is coordinating relief effort with the Serve the People Brigade-Cordillera Disaster Response based in Baguio City. ###