Marawi-inspired strafing in Mt. Banoi threatens the ‘world’s center of the center of
marine biodiversity’ – fisherfolk
Manila, Philippines – Fisherfolk under the group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) assails the Marawi-like aerial bombings conducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) at Mt. Banoi in Batangas City, calling the intense military offensive as a ceremonious welcome to the mining operations pending through the resource-rich mountain.
Military aerial strikes started on September 24 by the 202nd Infantry Brigade and 730th Combat Group of Philippine Air Force after the alleged encounter between the military and the New People’s Army (NPA) at the tri-boundary near Lobo, Batangas. The aerial bombings resulted to displacement of 137 peasant families from Barangay Cumba and Barangay Talahib Pandayan of Batangas City.
The group said the heavy military operation in Mt. Banoi is a prelude to large-scale mining operations to intimidate and inflict fear among the residents who resist destructive mining.
“The AFP is rolling out red carpet for giant mining firms who want to extract gold resources in Mt. Banoi by conducting indiscriminate aerial bombings,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson said in a statement, warning that if the mining application push through, the Verde Island Passage (VIP) in Lobo town, known as the ‘world’s center of the center of marine biodiversity’ and is adjacent to Mt. Banoi is at risk of devastation due to toxic contamination emitted by the mining site.
Citing the study of environmental group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, marine life in VIP has extraordinary levels of endemism and biodiversity, as scientists discovered a concentration of 1, 736 species in a mere 10-by-10 kilometer. This includes more than 300 coral species and 32 mangrove species in Batangas alone, and 20 seagrass species from Balayan Bay and Mindoro Oriental.
PAMALAKAYA added that almost 8 million people live around the VIP, of which majority of the population depends on fishing as a main source of livelihood. Even the local fish supply will be adversely affected as VIP contributes 239, 220 metric tons or 5.42% of the country’s annual fish production.
The Canadian-owned Mindoro Resource Limited (MRL) Gold and Egerton Gold, both affiliated with Australian miner Red Mountain Mining are seeking to extract gold from 200,000 hectares of land in Barangay Balibago of Lobo town but have been opposed by the residents living along Mt. Banoi for its disastrous effect on the environment and their livelihood.
“The military response to the alleged encounter is overkill. Both the aerial bombing and ground operations detriment the peaceful lives of the residents and the delicate marine environment of Verde Island Passage,”
“We demand an immediate pullout of military troops in the province of Batangas and to halt their indiscriminate bombings for the safety of the people and the environment,” ended Hicap. ###