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De Lima slams nickel mining project in Zambales: Pati ba naman lupa sa China na rin?

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Detained Senator Leila de Lima on Tuesday slammed the reported “suspicious construction” of a P200-million mining project in Candelaria, Zambales which is heavily-funded by Chinese investors.

News reports showed that Fujian Hengrun Investment Co., Ltd of China and Filipino firms Westchinamin Corp. and Easternreach Mining Group, Inc. have agreed to put up Ferro-Nickel Plant in Candelaria, Zambales.

The deal was reportedly sealed despite strong opposition from Zambales residents who called for “an immediate halt to the indiscriminate mining operations in their province which continue to destroy their communities and affect their health.”

De Lima, who chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, said the government should carefully assess the environmental, social and economic impact of yet another mining project with China.

“The indiscriminate mining operations in Zambales continue to wreak environmental havoc. Our mountains are stripped of top soil and our river waters are turning all red due to heavy mud,” she said.

“But what’s worse, the government, particularly Mr. Duterte, is obviously willing to allow unscrupulous Chinese contractors rape our environment at the detriment of our natural resources as well as the livelihood of our local residents,” she said.

De Lima was shown some actual photographs of how the river in Zambales had alarmingly turned red due to the risky mining business.

In October 2017, residents of Candelaria and Santa Cruz, Zambales pressed the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to support the cancellation of permits of the four mining firms by then Environment Secretary Gina Lopez because these companies mined the watershed and rendered their fishing grounds and farm lands unproductive.

The mining companies cited include Benguet Nickel Mines Inc., Zambales Diversified Metals Corp., LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc. and Eramen Minerals Inc.

The Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) expressed dismay over a 2018 Court of Appeals decision rejecting the appeal of local residents of Sta. Cruz, Zambales and Infanta, Pangasinan for the issuance of a Writ of Kalikasan with Permanent Environmental Protection Order against all mining operations in the northern part of the province.

Based on records from ATM, destructive nickel mining operations in Zambales have resulted in farmers’ and fisherfolk’s loss of an estimated P250 million worth of livelihood annually in Santa Cruz Zambales alone.

De Lima in July filed Senate Resolution 778 which seeks an inquiry into the apparent “gaps in the country’s environmental laws that compound the prevalence of human rights abuses in communities where there are large-scale mining.”

She said the proposed Senate probe should take an in-depth evaluation of the “continuing negative impact of mining operations on the environment and human rights of local communities.”

In August 2016, De Lima also filed Senate Bill No. 960 which seeks to ban black sand mining, which she described as “one form of environmental plunder.

She said that black sand mining would cause damage on the environment and livelihood of people in the surrounding areas due to floods and landslides.