Philippines Today, news, current events, current issues

When the people’s primary source of income is being taken away from them, expect them to be adamant about putting up a good fight and do anything they can to get back what was taken away from them. Over a thousand miners in Zambales took to the streets, and visited one barangay after another on Saturday, urging their fellow citizens to join them in their petition to lift suspensions on 4 major mining companies in the area. These mining companies are the main source of income for a majority of people in the province who were originally earning through seasonal jobs at farmlands. Now that their jobs are in peril they worry about how they can manage to support their families and provide for their day-to-day needs.

Here is a brief summary about the tales of our miner brothers in Zambales:

Philippines Today, news, current events, current issues

Over 1,000 mine workers in Sta. Cruz town in Zambales gathered on Saturday, 09 August 2014, morning in what was believed to  be an opening salvo for the worker’s campaign in defense of the mining operation in their area. The worker’s caravan in this province rich in nickel and chromite is calling their local officials’ support in the fight to win back their jobs. On Sunday, a special mass for the workers’ plight will also be held at the St. Michael Parish Church in line with this campaign.

The fate of more than 3,000 workers, mostly from this town, now hangs in the balance after the Mines and Geosciences Bureau {MGB} and Environmental Management Bureau {EMB} Region III of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources suspended the operations of four mining firms in Cental Luzon namely Zambales Diversified Metals Corporation, Benguet Corporation Nickel Mines Inc., Eramen Minerals Inc., and LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc last month.

The workers of these companies have recently formed a group called Coalition of Mine Workers, Families, and Communities {CMWFC} to press the resumption of the mine operations of the four companies and the lifting of the cease and desist and suspension orders issued separately by the DENR on 09 June and 15 July, respectively.

“Since the mining operations here in Zambales, thousands of residents here have become the immediate beneficiaries of the new jobs created and the services these companies have rendered for the communities,” Orlan Mayor, spokrespersonof the CMWFC said.

Orlan Mayor said with the temporary closures of the four mining companies, who are among the top nickel producers in the country, it is the Sta. Cruz town and its citizens who bear the full brunt of the government’s sanctions. 

“We are supposed to receive our salary next week. What will happen to all of our families now that we don’t have jobs?” says workers who lost their jobs.

The prospects of finding new jobs for these workers are dim with only farming, apart from mining, as the primary source of livelihood in the province. Mayor added that “marami sa mga manggagawang nawalan ng trabaho ay hindi nakapagtapos ng pag-aaral dahil sa kahirapan, at tanging minahan lamang ang nagbigays sa kanila ng pagkakataon na makahanap ng trabaho na walang diskriminasyon sa antas ng pinag-aralan, basta masipag ka at handang matuto ay binibigyan ng pagkakataon.”

These workers hired by the mining companies previously worked as laborers or farm workers for small-scale/backyard farms and earned not even half of the minimum wage they now get from the mining industry, besides the fact that as farm workers their jobs are seasonal. 

The potential loss for the municipality who gets a hefty sum in taxes and fees from mining companies was also seen to affect the Sta. Cruz people.

“This is apart from the fact that the local small businesses in Zambales were pushed up by the thriving mining industry here,” he said. “The local businesses that experienced an upbeat in their sales since the full operation of the mining companies are now in fear of possible significant loss in their income,” Mayor added. 

Around 7am on Saturday, the workers with their families and children in tow converged at the Sta. Cruz Amphitheater. They traveled in a convoy and made a stop at each barangay hall in Sta. Cruz to air their concern and urge their barangay leaders to rally behind them. 

The workers’ group belied the allegations of the mining firms’ violations, saying all of them which the DENR has used as bases for issuing its orders “were either conceived by wild imagination or bloated by the anti-mining group led by Dr. Benito Molino.” They are referring to the statement of Dr. Molino that “libu-libong ektarya na ng mga sakahan ang apektado ng nickel at libu-libong mga magsasaka ang nawalan o bumaba ang ani.” 

“Results of the investigations of the local offices of the DENR and the Department of Agriculture in Zambales showed that only 30 hectares of land are affected by the nickel erosion and these are owned by 30 individuals contrary to the claims that there are thousands of hectares of farmlands affected,” the group presidend said. The group also recently found out that Dr. Molino indicated his plan to enter the local political arena. In the interview by interaksyon.com he admitted that “…the people here in Sta. Cru ay matagal na nila akong kinukumbinsi para maging mayor.”

Majority of the fishponds allegedly affected by the mining operations were found to be operating illegally and without the necessary permits issued by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the DA, and their respective barangays. 

Believing that it’s high time that the majority of the populace raise their voices against a handful of propagandist ~ whose only aim is to derail the social and economic development brought about by the mining operations; the coalition also calls on their fellow citizens to speak out and not fall prey at the political agenda of this pseudo anti-mining group. 

Mum’s two cents

Environmental issues and concerns may put most mining companies in a bad light, but it is up to the government agencies concern to investigate, penalized and suspend those companies not following rules and regulations. In the same manner, it is also up to them to properly lift suspensions where appropriate.

Hopefully, this issue will be resolved in no time and I also hope that these miners, who only wanted to make an honest living, can go back to their jobs again.

Written by

mumwrites

is a 30-something work-at-home mum who blogs in between home chores + child-minding. i love coffee, books + reading, collecting lovely postcards, + spending loads of time outdoors with my little man.