Attempt to sabotage Rapu-Rapu test-run bared
() - July 23, 2006 - 12:00am
Unidentified persons poured what appeared to be pesticide into a creek near Lafayette’s Rapu-Rapu project last Wednesday then sent out text messages saying that the project had a spill that has killed marine life.

"This is sabotage to scare people and is no different from the mercury hoax anti-mining and leftist groups carried out early this year," lawyer Julito Sarmiento, Lafayette spokesman, said in a statement.

He added: "It is impossible for us to affect the environment at this time because we are only using water and non-mineralized ore at this stage in the test-run and no chemicals whatsoever. We think the same groups who mounted the mercury hoax are behind this. Besides, we are being strictly monitored full time by DENR officials."

In the mercury hoax, now being investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation, cut-up fish was brought by unidentified persons to a government laboratory for analysis.

When the results showed mercury content, the media was told Sorsogon’s coastal waters had been contaminated with mercury by Lafayette.

"But we never use mercury and Rapu-Rapu Island in Albay, where we operate, does not have any mercury problem. Unfortunately, when the media lapped up the hoax, 5,000 Sorsogon fishermen virtually overnight could not sell their catch, making them even poorer," he said.

In the apparent pesticide hoax, residents said the creek smelled of Thiodan. Some shellfish had been found dead, plus a big squid on the beach which is unusual, they said, since squids are not found on beaches, being deep-sea creatures.

Ananias Balato, a fisherman residing on the island, said the creek smelled strongly of pesticide early Wednesday that his son even threw up. The creek is outside the project site and is accessible to anybody.

Sarmiento said the company is investigating the matter and has tightened its surveillance operations with the help of the surrounding community to prevent a similar attempt by anti-mining groups.

He asked the media to be vigilant and not to fall for desperate and irresponsible stunts to prevent a repeat of the mercury hoax.

"Some groups desperately want Lafayette not to resume operations at all cost either because they love the environment so much they do not care if people remain poor and uneducated, or maybe because it is precisely their goal to keep the poor to promote whatever advocacy they are pushing," he said.

ALBAY ANANIAS BALATO HOAX JULITO SARMIENTO MERCURY NATIONAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION RAPU-RAPU RAPU-RAPU ISLAND SARMIENTO SORSOGON
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