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SC upholds CA decision; junks Writ of Kalikasan plea vs Filminera Mining

By Mar Arguelles LEGAZPI CITY --- The Supreme Court (SC), in an en-banc decision, recently upheld the Court of Appeals (CA) resolution denying the petition for an environmental protection order of Writ of Kalikasan. The writ was filed by Ang Aroroy ay Alagaan, Inc. against Filminera Resources Corporation (Filminera). The SC resolved to junk the petition by the Ang Aroroy ay Alagaan, Inc. for the failure of Ang Aroroy to sufficiently show that the CA has committed a reversible error in its decision that would warrant the exercise of the SC discretionary appellate jurisdiction. In a three-page En Banc Notice signed by Edgar O. Aricheta, SC Clerk of Court, the SC upheld at least 14 CA findings that the petitioners failed to substantiate their claims that the mine operations had negatively affected the environment in and around the towns of Aroroy and Baleno in Masbate. The SC, in its G.R. No. 233361 notice, said “it (CA) correctly held that there was no proof that respondent (Filminera) violated any law, rule or regulation which would violate or threaten to violate the constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology that involves or will lead to an environmental damage of such magnitude as to prejudice the life, health or property of inhabitants of Aroroy, much less in two or more cities or provinces.” Included in salient findings by the appellate court upheld by the SC is the water contamination issue, where the CA found that the results of total cyanide, mercury, cadmium, and lead in shrimps and milkfish were markedly lower than the minimum detection limit and the studies revealed the “mercury in the water was already present even before Filminera commenced operations.” As to the alleged deaths of crabs and shrimps, test results and studies showed that they were caused by the white spot syndrome virus, and not by the mining operations. The Appellate Court identified that the source of the toxic metals was the small-scale mining operations, saying that even “the petitioners’ own witnesses admitted in court to have used mercury and cyanide in their small-scale mining operations, and that the test of the water and sediment samples clearly pointed to the small-scale miners, and not the mining firm (Filminera),” the Court said. The water discharged by the water treatment facility is covered by a wastewater discharge permit issued by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) and that sufficient treatment and safeguards are in place to ensure that only clean water is discharged from the said treatment facility. As for the Environmental Clearance Certificate issue, the court findings said the mining company operates under a valid and existing ECC and there was no evidence of any wrongdoing or proof of the allegations that Filminera operated outside the mining area allowed under its ECC. Filminera president Cris Acosta said «We have always upheld best practices in environmental stewardship in all our mining operations, and we will continue to do so as part of our commitment to our host communities and the people of Aroroy.» The SC En Banc issued a Resolution on April 24, 2018, and said Resolution was served to the petitioners Ang Aroroy ay Alagaan, Inc., Dennis Lubedesis, Randy Ocampo, Christian Lubedicis of Barangay Eastern Capsay of the Municipality of Baleno, Masbate.

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