Climate and Environment

Cagayan fishers protest river dredging, black sand mining in Aparri

Cagayan fishers protest river dredging, black sand mining in Aparri
Fisherfolk hold a protest to decry the river dredging and black sand mining in Aparri, Cagayan on April 22, 2022, Earth Day.
San Pedro Telmo Parish

MANILA, Philippines — Fisherfolk in Cagayan province protested the black sand mining in Aparri town, saying the mining operations pose threats to their livelihood and the environment.

Over a thousand fisherfolk from the towns of Aparri, Gattaran, Ballesteros, Buguey, Gonzaga, and Sta. Ana held a protest on April 22, Earth Day, according to a release of San Pedro Telmo Parish.

The fishers claimed their catch of “aramang” or spider shrimp has decreased due to sound, light and chemical pollution from river dredging operations. Locals believe the black sand mining operations are happening in the guise of river dredging.

Before the river dredging operations started in the first quarter of 2021, fisherfolk said one boat could catch up to 200 kilograms of fish overnight off the coast of Aparri. Now, fishers would be lucky to take home three kilos of fish.

The dwindling catch affected the income of around 11,000 fisherfolk and their families.

“Mga iba’t-ibang uri ng isda, malaki man o maliit, pagdating ng barkong banyaga na ginagamit pang-dredging at mining ay nabulabog, nagulo ang kanilang tahanan kaya halos walang mahuling isda. Labis na naapektuhan ang aming kabuhayan na umaasa lamang sa aming isda na biyayang naggagaling sa ilog Cagayan at sa dagat,” local fisherfolk leader Ricardo Moso said.

(Different kinds of fish, big or small, are disturbed, their habitats disrupted when foreign sea vessels used for dredging and mining entered. It has really affected our livelihoods which depend on fish from Cagayan River and the sea.)

He added that their fishing nets had been damaged by ships used in dredging.

“Kami ay umaasa at nananalangin na mapahinto ang operation ng dredging o black sand mining para mabalik ang kasaganahan at sigla ng aming kabuhayan,” Moso added.

(We are hoping and praying that the dredging operations or black sand mining will be stopped so the abundance will return.)

Aparri fishers and residents reported the return of mining activity in the first quarter of 2021, with dredging sea crafts and sea carriers of Chinese firm Riverfront Construction Inc. operating in the Cagayan River, Aparri delta, and the West Philippine Sea.

The Cagayan provincial government said the presence of large ships is due to the ongoing dredging operations to rehabilitate the Cagayan River, and enable the reopening of Aparri port and the establishment of an international seaport.

But locals said the vessels suck sand at the areas where they catch fish. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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