Opposition to ferronickel plant in Zambales gaining ground
Posted 3 years ago
Photo Credit: AES Corp
CANDELARIA, Zambales: The clamor to stop the planned construction of a P200-million ferronickel plant here is gaining more ground as residents from neighboring towns have also come out to express support to efforts to prevent what they call a looming environmental destruction of Zambales.
Residents in the northernmost town of Santa Cruz and Masinloc south of Candelaria, as well as those from other towns and even those residing abroad have signified their intention to join the petition to stop the joint venture among Westchinamin Corp., Easternreach Mining Group, Inc. and Fujian Hengrun Investment Co. Ltd. from China to build the ferronickel plant in Candelaria.
Angry Zambaleños expressing strong opposition to the project cite the experience of Santa Cruz town where vast tracts of farmlands and fishponds as well as creeks, rivers and other waterways were rendered unproductive by nickel siltation caused by mining activities.
Residents of Masinloc, in their petition, said they are worried that Lauis River may be destroyed by the ferronickel plant which reportedly has the blessing of President Rodrigo Duterte.
According to the newly-formed alliance of non-governmental organization, Zambales Lingap Kalikasan (Zalika), which spearheads the gathering of signatures for the petition, the town of Masinloc recently passed a resolution opposing the ferronickel plant project.
Concerned Citizens of Sta. Cruz (CCOS) Chairman Benito Molino, who has long advocated for a stop in mining activities in Zambales, is leading the residents in calling for a mass movement to abort the planned project.
Zalika believes the proposed ferronickel plant will only aggravate forest denudation and watershed degradation, as well as worsen erosion and siltation, water pollution, and destruction of traditional livelihood like farming, fishing and tourism.
“The experience of Santa Cruz where indiscriminate mining operations continue to wreak environmental havoc on the well-being of the residents as well as on their livelihood should be a lesson Candelaria must learn from,” the group said.
An estimated P250 million in livelihood annually by farmers and fisherfolk is reportedly lost because of destructive mining in Santa Cruz.
“We do not want a repeat of what happened to Santa Cruz and we want to preserve the beauty of Candelaria and promote livelihood activities that care for our environment,” Zalika’s petition said.
Candelaria Mayor Napoleon Edquid earlier sought to allay fears of environmental degradation for the town because of mining.
In a recent public hearing, Edquid said the project would be the first of its kind in the country and would be using the most modern technology from China to be introduced by Hengrun.
Westchinamin, which already operated mining activities here, said it intends to mine nine barangay (villages) in the town for nickel laterite within a 2,000-hectare area in the mountains.
Candelaria residents, however, are determined in seeking a stop to the project and appeal to their local officials to make a stand against the ferronickel plant project.