Continuing the Advocacy for the Ayala Watershed | September 2, 2009

Needless to say water is a basic need of man. And it is rightly said that “Water is gold and water is life” (El agua es oro, el agua es vida).

From the outset the advocacy undertaken by 7 groups in the city was not to take a stand against mining per se; the advocacy was for the preservation and conservation of the Ayala Watershed, which has been a functional source of the clean and safe water delivered to the residents of Zamboanga City with connections to the water system managed by the Zamboanga City Water District.

With Atty. Laisa Alamia speaking for the 7 groups as the legal counsel, a petition was submitted to the Sangguniang Panglunsod ng Zamboanga City in its session on August 26, 2009 praying this body to withdraw its Resolution No. 915 interposing “no objection to the implementation of the mining exploration and mining activities relating to such exploration of the Rigid Aggregates and Mining Corporation (RAMC) in La Paz and Baluno” which was issued on December 4, 2007. A good number of those who support the conservation and preservation of the Ayala Watershed also attended the session.

The 7 petitioners are SILSILAH DIALOGUE MOVEMENT, represented by its founder Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra,PIME; ZAMBOANGA CITY WATER DISTRICT (ZCWD), represented by its General Manager Leonardo Rey D. Vasquez; INDUSTRIAL GROUP OF ZAMBOANGA, INC. represented by its Vice-President Engr. George Ledesma; EMPLOYERS’ CONFEDERATION OF THE PHILIPPINES ZAMBOANGA BASILAN SULU TAWI-TAWI CHAPTER, represented by Edgar B. Lim; MOVEMENT FOR A BETTER ZAMBOANGA, represented by Atty. Arsenio Gonzales; SOCIAL ACTION CENTER, represented by its Director Fr. Adriano J. Ruiz Jr.; and BAYANIHAN HARMONY AGRO-ECOLOGY MULTI-PURPOSE COOPERATIVE represented by Edwin H. Francisco.

In the petition to the City Council, Atty. Alamia presented the following grounds for opposition; (1) the area covered by the Application for Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) is closed to mining;(2) The Application for MPSA is violative of Section 99 of the Philippine Mining Act or known as RA 7942 “Falsehood or Omission of Facts in the Statement”;

 

(3) Requirement of Publication, Posting and Radio Announcement are not fully complied with; (4) Respondent is not exempted from submission of the mandatory requirement of Environmental Management and Community Relations Record; (5) Resolution of the local legislative body which was submitted by RAMC as part of the mandatory requirements is defective; and lastly,
(6) No meaningful consultation was done with the stakeholders of the affected areas.

Other than the direct consequence on the water supply to the homes of residents of Zamboanga City it was noted that any threat to the quality of water for use in the canning industry might jeopardize this economic activity which employs a good number of people. Zamboanga City, particularly the Ayala District, has been recognized as the Sardines Capital of the Philippines.

At the end of the discussion in the Council session on the petition, two motions were seconded jointly and severally by all members of the Council present. These were (1) to convene the following institutions and/or groups for a committee hearing – the City Mining Board, Environmental Law Experts, PHILVOCS, DENR, as well as the Petioners and the Rigid Aggregates and Mining Corporation (RAMC) and other agencies, departments, NGO’s and concerned groups with the lead committee on environment.
(2) to recall the adopted resolution that if and when it turns out the mining exploration is inside the watershed without the policy, we adopt the policy to recall that resolution. The 2nd motion was seconded by most of the members and an amendment made to include what they consider as “buffer zone” and other areas which are suppose to be close to mining as provided for by law.

The next hearing will be done on Friday or Saturday of the following. The City Councilors expressed their thanks to the petitioners for expressing their stand on the issue and their reasons for taking that stand; they said that the members of the Council are always open to hear the opinions of resident groups which can result in a better understanding of situations that affect the residents of the city.

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