Source: Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) en banc on Tuesday issued a writ of kalikasan stopping the leveling of a mountain in Zambales and the building of a seaport to be used in shipping mountain soil rich in chromite and other minerals to China.
The residents earlier complained to Agham party-list Rep. Angelo Palmones and Laguna Rep. Danilo Fernandez, chairman of the committee on ecology of the House of Representatives, which prompted the two congressmen to conduct on-site inspection last April.
Upon arriving in the area, the two solons were confronted by heavily armed men.
After inspecting the area, Fernandez’s panel recommended to Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje the issuance of a cease and desist order (CDO) against the “irresponsible mining firm.”
Palmones, for his part, went to the Supreme Court to seek the Writ of Kalikasan.
He submitted a 12-page petition to the High Court and attached 60 pages of annexes containing photos of the site before and after the leveling of the mountain, with the soil pushed towards and reclaiming the sea destroying the corals and natural habitat of the fishes, and affidavits of complaining residents.
Worse, Palmones said, LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc. (LAMI) started to flatten a mountain in Barangay Bolitoc, Sta. Cruz, Zambales, which serve as natural protective barriers of the residents of Sta. Cruz, Zambales and the residents of some of the adjacent towns of Pangasinan from typhoons and floods.
He said the residents signed a single or common affidavit, lamenting that they were never consulted before LAMI began its operations.
They demanded that the natural resources be preserved, restored to its original shape and protected.
Instead of appeasing the angered residents, LAMI officials, with heavily armed men in tow, faced the residents and flaunted that they were authorized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and PPA to flatten the mountain, the residents said in their affidavit.
Palmones said the permit to construct issued by PPA in favor of LAMI does not authorize it to cut mountain trees, much less flatten a mountain, for its port construction.
The DENR, for its part, issued an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) but it was only a “planning tool” and not a permit.
The ECC requires LAMI to “diligently secure pertinent permit and clearances from all concerned government agencies, which LAMI failed to comply with,” said Palmones.
The Agham party-list solon said he had included Paje and other government officials as respondents “because they failed to act on the complaint despite undisputed evidence presented to them and with no less than Fernandez, as chairman of the House committee on ecology, recommending that the DENR issued a cease and desist order, to no avail.”
As of June 4, or more than a month after the two lawmakers raised the alarming destruction of environment to Paje, PPA and the police, LAMI’s backhoes were still doing earth-moving activities, Palmones said in his petition.
“Respondent LAMI is destroying and continues to destroy the environment by cutting mountain trees and leveling a mountain to the damage and detriment of the residents of Zambales and of the nearby towns of Pangasinan, without any of the concerned government agencies and officials stopping such illegal actions and or worse, condoning the same,” he said.
Palmones said the residents wished the remaining mountains that were found to be rich in mineral resources would be left unharmed.
He said the raw soil mined from the mountains were being shipped to China for processing because the LAMI did not have the capacity to process the ores.
“The LAMI needed the seaport to cut on travel time and cost as ships could bring in more mountain soils and rocks for export than shipping them by land because trucks can only carry limited tons of raw soil and rocks,” he said.
“The mountain trees and the mountain being destroyed by respondent LAMI serve as natural protective barriers of the residents of Zambales and of the residents of some nearby towns of Pangasinan from typhoon and floods. Once these natural resources are damaged, the residents of these two provinces will be defenseless against typhoons and floods and their life, health and properties will be at the constant risk of being lost,” he noted.
In a resolution, the SC en banc issued a Writ of Kalikasan against Paje, LAMI president Lawrence Lenio and general manager Philip Floria, Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) general manager Juan Sta. Ana, and Zambales Police provincial director Superintendent Francisco Santiago Jr.
Paje and the others were given a “non-extendible 10 days” and ordered to make a “verified return” of the writ for hearing, reception of evidence and rendition of judgment.