Fishing and farming safe in Siocon


Farmer attests Canatuan mining has been environment-friendly

Siegfried Boiser shook his head when asked if mining in Mount Canatuan has adversely affected his four-hectare rice field in Lituban, a barangay (county) at the western portion of the mountain’s foot in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte. Then he smiled, aware that the question is rooted on information being spread around by people who oppose mining.

Siegfried Boiser shows Mae Villar, TVIRD Canatuan Environmental Supervisor around his farm in Lituban, Siocon: “TVIRD’s operations have never affected our farming.”

“Wala maka-apekto ang operasyon sa TVI sa among panguma (TVIRD’s operations have never affected our farming),” the 43 year-old father of three replied. “Gikan kaniadto hangtod karon, wala mukonhod ang among kita (From the start [of the company’s operations] until now, our earnings [from the farm] have stayed the same).”

Boiser was referring to the gold and silver mine of TVI Resource Development Philippines, Inc., which began producing these precious metals in Canatuan in mid-2004 by virtue of a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement with the Philippine government.

In fact, he added, fish and other marine life began flourishing again in the rivers of Siocon, including Lituban River where he sources water to irrigate his farm, since the company embarked, beginning 2003, on a year-long environmental cleanup to rid Canatuan of the mercury and cyanide tailings of illegal small-scale miners who operated in the area throughout the `90s until the early years of the new millennium.

In the aquatic habitat testing conducted by TVIRD and the government Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) for 2006 and 2007, shrimps, fish and amphibians were tested for heavy metals as well as mercury and cyanide within Canatuan Creek, Litoban River, Siocon River and Siocon Bay. “All samples tested negative for cyanide and were well within the limits of other metals for human consumption,” Jay Nelson, TVIRD vice president for Environment and Civil Works, related. “River sediment samples were also tested and the results were negative.”

Boiser is a member of the Multipartite Monitoring Team (MMT) organized by MGB to regularly monitor TVIRD’s compliance with social and environmental standards spelled out under the Philippine Mining Act of 1995. Having come from a farming family – his parents were also farmers – Boiser was selected to represent the farmers’ sector in the MMT.

The other MMT members are Verna Baguio, a Research Specialist of MGB and chair of the MMT; Winnie Ramos of the government Environmental Management Bureau; Siocon Municipal Councilor Boslon Danduh, representing the local government unit (LGU); Eriberto Canama of the Association of Barangay Captains, also from the LGU; Bonifacio Patoh, Captain of Canatuan’s host barangay, Canatuan; Erdulfo Comisas of the Siocon Subanon Association, Inc., representing TVIRD’s indigenous people (IP) hosts; Jacob Miranda of the Knights of Columbus, representing the Catholic Church and non-government organization sectors; and Edsel Cichon, of the market vendors’ group.

The Zamboanga del Norte provincial government has yet to appoint its representative from the Provincial Environment and Development Office (PEDO) after it recalled former PEDO Officer Remelo Damuag.

The only apprehension of farmers in Siocon, according to Boiser, has to do with siltation from the mountains of the municipality during heavy downpours. But he was quick to point out that this is caused by the slash-and-burn method of farming by Subanons in and around Canatuan. While TVIRD has been dissuading the IPs from swidden farming method by providing them access to environment-friendly agro-technology (see related article through this link: http://www./article.php?id=153), some Subanons still insist on their traditional way of tilling the land.

Nevertheless, farm animals like carabaos and goats drink water from rivers that flow from the mountains, Boiser explained. He said that it is public knowledge that TVIRD is doing its best to abide by environmental laws as well as with other laws governing the mining industry in the country. Waxing poetic reminiscent of a famous line in a recent superhero movie, Boiser said: “For every ounce of gold (that the company extracts) there is a corresponding responsibility to ensure that the environment is protected.” And this, he stressed, is what he has been witnessing in TVIRD’s Canatuan Project.

He said people should realize how important the presence of large-scale mining is for Siocon and the whole province of Zamboanga del Norte because the industry helps a lot in improving the economic situation in the area.

“Instead of criticizing the company, we should help it to achieve its goal of responsible mining. This will benefit not only our Subanon brothers and sisters but the entire nation as well.” Boiser said. And he walks his talk by making sure he is a conscientious member of the MMT, always ready to provide constructive inputs during its regular deliberations. (Raymond Acopiado).

Another view of Boiser’s farm: “Instead of criticizing the company, we should help it achieve its goal of responsible mining.”