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Kalikasan writ plea vs Aroroy mining junked

QUEZON CITY --- The Court of Appeals has dismissed a plea for an environmental protection order or Writ of Kalikasan against the operation of a gold mine in Aroroy, Masbate after it found the allegations raised by an environmental group were all untrue. In a decision dated Mar. 8, the CA’s 4th division composed of newly appointed Supreme Court Justice Noel G. Tijam and Justices Francisco P. Acosta and Eduardo B. Peralta, Jr. junked the plea for the kalikasan writ against Filminera Resources Corp. filed by Ang Aroroy Ay Alagaan, Inc. and four private citizens. The CA said the petitioners had failed to substantiate its claims that the mine’s operations had negatively affected the environment in and around the municipalities of Aroroy and Baleno in Masbate or that these had any impact on the petitioners’ livelihoods. It also noted that Filminera “were able to controvert with overwhelming evidence, the allegations put forth by the petitioners.” The CA 4th division rendered its decision after studying several sets of pleadings and holding a series of hearings in October and November where evidence and testimony from both sides were presented. The petitioners had claimed that Filminera’s operations were operating without the needed permits including a valid environmental clearance certificate (ECC). The petitioners also claimed that the mine operations had caused pollution in the waters in and around Aroroy and Baleno that had affected the health and livelihood of residents. However, the CA decision noted that Filminera effectively disproved the petitioners’ allegations using data from government agencies like the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) and its own regular multi-partite water testing conducted with local stakeholders. The mining company also presented all the proper permits to the CA, including a valid ECC. “In sum, the petitioners failed to substantiate its claims that Filminera’s operations cased environmental damage of the magnitude contemplated under the writ of kalikasan. The evidence it presented is inadequate to establish the factual bases of its claims.” “Respondents were also able to show the permits necessary for its operations, all of which were not sufficiently rebutted by the petitioners,” added the CA. The CA noted that the studies on water quality submitted by the petitioners themselves did not prove the presence of cyanide or mercury hazardous to the environment or inhabitants. “Results (from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) of total cyanide, mercury, cadmium, and lead in shrimp and milkfish were also markedly lower than the minimum detection limit.” The CA also said water sampling tests from the petitioners showing the presence of mercury could not be attributable to Filminera since these were made even before it began its operations. Crispiniano Acosta, president of Filminera says: “We are happy that the Court of Appeals has ruled in our favor. The CA decision affirms that Filminera is mining responsibly; this is manifested in how we take care of the environment and of the community where we operate.” “We remain committed to adhering to the highest international standards in our operation,” he added. Filminera also pointed out that it did not use mercury in any of its processes, and the contamination likely resulted from the unregulated operations of some 3,000 small-scale miners in the area who use mercury. “In fact, petitioners’ own witnesses, Mr. Clemente and Mr. Sailago, admitted to being small-scale miners who used mercury and cyanide, prior or even during the operations of respondents,” said the CA. The CA decision also included testimony from the petitioners’ own expert witnesses who admitted that the water sampling tests they presented showed results that were not harmful to humans and wildlife, or that had exceeded the standards set by the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources. The CA said the petitioners also failed to show evidence of their allegations that Filminera had gone beyond their allowed operating area, or that they had encroached on any waterways. “Petitioners’ allegations in the Petition, therefore, absent any concrete proof, are bereft of any merit. Petitioners simply failed to substantiate their claims that any environmental damage is directly attributable to Filminera’s mining activities. Their uncorroborated claim of that fact, even under oath, is self-serving,” said the CA.

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