The controversial issue on mining activities in various parts of the Philippines led to the discovery of massive environmental destructions in Caraga Region, Mindanao where large mine pits are maintained by influential businessmen in the mining industry.
The breathtaking views of the Caraga landscape can be easily experienced when a person flies above the area. Its abudant blue seawater, vast green fields and tall mountains make you think that the region has all the resources that can supply all the needs of its local residents. Unfortunately, this observation is just a theory to a large area of Caraga where huge mining firms are exploiting all the natural resources that they could take from the ground.
From the aerial view, the massive devastation of the ecosystem in the site is primarily caused by the mining companies mainly operated by foreign and multionational business groups. The negative results are also very evident in the surrounding towns in Claver, Surigao del Norte. In fact, the latest aerial photos gathered by the officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources(DENR) validated the previous reports submitted by the leaders of the local folks who were displaced from their own farmlands due to the invasion of large mining firms.
Caraga Region houses the largest and major nickel mining activities in the Philippines. Out of the 40 companies licensed by the government to operate in the country, 22 operational mining groups are located in Caraga.
Because of the permit issued by the Philippine government, these international business groups rushed to Caraga region to compete with other companies who were already digging large open pits and they simultaneously start to extract the resources in the nickel-rich land of Surigao del Norte.
Were there previous complaints filed against these companies and its mining activities in the region?
In 2012, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) initiated an investigation on the alleged violations of environmental and health hazard laws reportedly committed by large-scale mining companies from the region including the country's leading exporter of nickel.
MGB officials purportedly received formal complaints from local town officials as well as other documented concerns raised by various environmental groups who were alarmed to the massive damage caused by the mining activities in Caraga.
These are the recorded complaints listed at the office of MGB.
(4)nonpayment of extraction, business fees and taxes
There were additional reports concerning harassment to the native settlers which were also considered as primary issues in the location.
In response to the said complaints, MGB conducted an ocular inspection on the mining sites where the government agency verified the abuse and violations of the foreign companies. MGB said that "mine sites showed “lapses” on the part of the firms’ compliance with environmental and health hazard laws."
They MGB official explained to the media that the siltation along the coastal shores in Surigao del Norte explicitly indicate that the companies are not protecting the environment at all. The mud flowing into the sea destroys the coral reefs resulting to lower number of fishes and ultimately could led to extinction of underwater species.
Still in 2012, environmental activist Gina Lopez, who is now the current DENR Secretary, "lamented that the mining operations had turned the town into an eyesore".
Back to the present situation
The operations of nickel companies in Caraga turned worse each year prompting Secretary Lopez to intensify her campaign in shutting down any violators like the Chinese mining companies which she claimed as the top abusive mining groups in the industry.
From the recent aerial survey, the safety and health hazard to the entire population in Caraga region is already beyond anyone's imagination. The nickel deposits are often found in the rivers causing the sediments to block the normal flow of water into the irrigation system needed by the farmers for their rice fields.
Meanwhile, Secretary Lopez is drafting a livelihood program to those Filipino miners who will soon lose their jobs when the mining companies will be fully closed for its non-compliance to environmental and health hazard laws.
In an interview, Gina Lopez firmly emphasized that she is not against mining operations but her concern is the true welfare and interests of the Filipino people who have been suffering from the massive destruction of the mining companies to the environment.