Agusan mayor welcomes anti-mining protests

- Ben Serrano () - May 30, 2006 - 12:00am
TUBAY, Agusan del Norte —Mayor Fidel Garcia Jr. will not only offer a venue for anti-mining rallies at the Freedom Park here but will even ask Municipal Hall workers to help rallyists install tents in case their protest march will last for days or weeks.

"They can even stay at the Freedom Park the whole year provided they maintain the cleanliness and order at the park if only to ensure that their rights to express grievance against their government are not trampled or curtailed," Garcia told The STAR in an interview yesterday.

Garcia said he welcomes the anti-mining groups’ opposition to the nickel and cobalt mining site in Barangay La Fraternidad.

Garcia was a social activist and former student leader before joining politics.

Local parishioners of the Roman Catholic’s St. Anne Parish and the environmental group Tigum Batok Mina (Forum Against Mining) have expressed strong opposition to the mining activities in the area.

A consortium composed of two construction firms and a mining firm were granted by the Agusan del Norte Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) a small-scale mining permit after Garcia and the Municipal Council, including the Barangay Council of La Fraternidad, passed resolutions approving the mining and quarrying operations in the barangay.

The Agusan del Norte PMRB has given Galeo Equipment, San R Construction and S.R. Metals Inc. 20 hectares each or a total of 60 hectares for mining and quarrying nickel and cobalt ores. The produce will be shiped to China.

This caused an uproar among local parishioners and evironmentalists, which has to already two mass protest rallies against mining.

The activitists complained that the firms violated the provisions of their permit because they were only allowed to operate small-scale mining but are actually operating large-scale mining activities which use heavy equipment instead of hand tools.

They claimed that mass destruction of the environment will follow if nickel and cobalt mining continue in the area, which was earlier declared by the municipal  government itself as a bird sanctuary with some parts even considered as watershed areas and fish sanctuary since the mining area is near the sea and river.

Garcia, however, said there is nothing to worry about environmental destruction because safety nets were provided by the resolution, which required the three firms to deposit surety bonds and strictly implement the "Dig, Refill and Reforest" provision in the mining area.

He added that the mining operations in Barangay La Fraternidad is actually only "quarrying" since no plant will be installed because the ores will be transported to China.

AGUSAN BARANGAY COUNCIL OF LA FRATERNIDAD BARANGAY LA FRATERNIDAD FORUM AGAINST MINING FREEDOM PARK GALEO EQUIPMENT GARCIA GARCIA AND THE MUNICIPAL COUNCIL MAYOR FIDEL GARCIA JR. METALS INC MINING
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