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PIA Press Release

Feature: Knowing the State of Naboc River

(2nd of four parts) Heavy metal content of Naboc River pushes gov't to action

By Jean Duron-Abangan

High -evel content of mercury, cyanide, other heavy metals and suspended solids of Naboc River has alarmed officials of national lines agencies particularly those within the umbrella of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) XI.

The Mines and Geo-Sciences Bureau (MGB) XI reported the results of its Naboc River water quality assessment to DENR Regional Executive Director Jim O. Sampulna, giving him its recommendations to address the hazards to Naboc River.

In a letter to Sampulna, MGB XI officer-in-charge Regional Director Edilberto Arreza laid down the recommendations of the team tasked to undertake water quality assessment from May 12 to May 15.

MGB pointed out the need to immediately relocate or transfer carbon in pulp (CIP) plants and ball/rod mills to the identified Mineral Processing Zone in Mabatas to control miners from directly discharging and throwing mine tailings into Naboc River.

It is also recommending to limit cyanide use of CIP plant operation to 1:1 ratio of cyanide to ore, meaning, for every one ton of ore, only one kilo of cyanide should be used, to prevent too much cyanide thrown away as mine wastes which eventually contaminate waters of Naboc River.

The water quality assessment team of MGB is also suggesting that Cyanide content analysis should be done in laboratory to determine the exact level of cyanide, present in samples taken from sampling stations. This should be done instead of purchasing buffer solutions (which usually expire) in conducting on-site Cyanide analysis.

Aside from Engineer Fedelis Echavez, other members of MGB water quality assessment team are Senior Environmental Management Specialist Evangeline A. Rivera and Science Research Specialist Ignacio C. Ortiz Jr.

Arreza also furnished Mt. Diwata Barangay Captain Francisco Tito a copy of MGB's water quality assessment on Naboc River.

Sagip Diwalwal

Upon knowing the "disturbing" results, Sampulna met on June 4, 2009 with Compostela Governor Arturo T. Uy, mining companies operating in Mt. Diwalwal, and with representatives of small scale miners, and shared them the findings showing the pollution of Naboc River,"attributed to the mining operation in the area."

A report of PMCC-NTFD regional program coordinator Nora Alicante dated September 02, 2009 revealed that Sampulna, together with Arreza, had a subsequent meeting with Governor Uy on August 19, 2009 at the Provincial Capitol of Compostela Valley.

The meeting lead to strengthening of the Provincial Sagip Diwalwal Task Force which Uy earlier created on July 14, 2009 through Executive Order No. 022.2009.

Uy later issued on August 26, 2009 Executive Order No. 028.2009, amending the membership composition of the task force earlier created through EO 022.2009.

Governor Uy chairs the TF while MGB Regional Director Edilberto Arreza sits as the vice chairperson.

The strengthened TF embraces into its executive committee membership representatives of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the Environmental Management Bureau, the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO), barangay captains Tito and Rosaleo Umbao of Mt. Diwata and Upper Ulip, respectively.

Miners groups are also represented in the executive committee which also includes a non-government organization (MINFED) on mining.

A technical working group (TWG) is also created under the strengthened Provincial Sagip Diwalwal Task Force.

Sampulna has lauded Uy for seriously taking the challenge to seriously address the mines tailings pollution in Naboc River while also addressing the dangerous situation of Mt. Diwata residents who are living along landslide danger zone.

"I admire the Governor for his resiliency and his action. I hope that all Governors will all be like that," Sampulna said in an interview.

Police ranks

Meanwhile, he is throwing a challenge to Diwalwal miners to "police your ranks" and re-activate the organization among small scale miners who should be made to observe responsible mining operation to address the threat of eventually spreading poisonous chemicals in mine tailings.

Sampulna will also be meeting with top officials of the Natural Resources Development Corporation (NRDC) to propose the possibility of allowing the local government of Compostela Valley to issue service contracts to small scale miners.

"Bakit di natin sila isyuhan ng bagong contract (why don't we issue them contracts), and put up an office there of the office of NRDC in the area for monitoring purposes. It would be a joint monitoring office of the NRDC, DENR and the local government unit," he said.

Sampulna has revealed that small scale miners in Mt. Diwalwal have been operating without mining contracts with the government for four years now.

"Four years walang koleksiyon ang gobyerno (For four years, the government has collection.)," he said referring to the absence of service contracts of small scale mining operation in Mt. Diwalwal.

Sampulna sees the relevance of issuing contracts with small scale miners as one way of closely monitoring their mining operation.

"With the service contract, may control tayo sa kanila ang may share ang government sa kanilang (ore) produce. (With the service contract, we have control over them and the government would have its share of their (ore) produce," he said

Partial solution

But Sampulna considers the Provincial Sagip Diwalwal Task Force and the proposal to turn over service contracts issuance to the LGU as part of a comprehensive solution to Naboc River pollution.

Sampulna is referring to the Naboc Watershed Vulnerability Assessment which is designed to come up with maps as to landslide and flooding vulnerability of Naboc watershed as well as scientific assessment of its water quality.

It is also seeks to provide decision-makers who include among others local government officials and heads of concerned government agencies, official data that would serve as basis of formulating a sustainable watershed management plan.

The Environmental Research and Development Services (ERDS) is spearheading the study as part of its initiatives as a member of the Mining and Environment Task Group which works under the Program Monitoring Coordinating Center (PMCC) of the National Task Force Diwalwal. (PIA XI/PMCC-NTFD) [top]

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