Palawan NGOs oppose limestone quarry in Bataraza

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY–The Palawan NGO Network Inc. (PNNI) is strongly opposing the establishment of the Lime Milk Processing Plant in Barangay Rio Tuba in Bataraza town.

The PNNI’s position has been submitted to the Office of the Vice Governor Clara E. Reyes and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan Secretariat.

The Lime Milk Processing Plant, proposed by the  UNICHAMP Mineral Philippines, was endorsed by the SP in its session on October 25 based on the recommendation of its Committee on Environmental Protection and Natural Resources.

The plant, proposed to be located in the Rio Tuba Economic Zone, will supply the Hydrometallurgical Processing Plant (HPP) of the Coral Bay Nickel Corporation (CBNC) with lime milk for treatment of waste water and for neutralization during the mixed sulfide process of the HPP. The raw materials for the lime milk plant will be sourced from the Rio Tuba Nickel’s (RTN) limestone quarry at Sitio Gotok.

In an interview over the local radio, Beth Maclang, PNNI Advocacy Officer said that their opposition to the limestone quarry was based on scientific findings by the Western Philippines University (WPU) and the evaluation by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS).

“Noon pa man, against na ang PNNI sa quarrying base na rin sa assessment sa bio-diversity ng WPU sa Sitio Gotok at ang findings ng PCSDS na ang area ay nasa loob ng core zone ng ECAN,” said Maclang.

Based on the WPU study in 2004, Gotok area is rich in biodiversity and a habitat of endangered flora and fauna. Some of these are included on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and on the endangered list of the Conservation on International Trade of Endangered Species.

The assessment also found the presence of eight caves surrounding the 13 hectares limestone quarry. RTN was issued another Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) for a total area of 84.5 hectares which covers the Gotok limestone pit in 2005.

“Nakakalungkot ang pangyayari na ito para sa PNNI kasi inspite of our opposition backed by the scientific assessment ay inindorso pa rin ng Sangguniang Panlalawigan,” said Maclang.

Included in the letter sent officially to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan in July were the sworn statements of Dr. Lita Sopsop of the Western Philippines University and the technical experts of the PCSDS who cited the results of the 2003 and 2004 evaluations that the Gotok Limestone Quarry falls under “core zone” based on Chapter III (Criteria in delineating the ECAN) and ECAN Guidelines.

The team identified the Gotok core zone as having the following characteristics:

1.            Slope is >50% as such, it is a core zone based on ECAN Zonal Classification;

2.            Old Growth forest over limestone. (Virgin forest or primary growth forest);

3.            Habitat of endangered and rare species of plants and animals.

After the endorsement of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, the proposed lime milk processing plant with limestone quarrying operation will undergo another evaluation process for Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) Clearance by the PCSD.

Uniquely Palawan, projects in agriculture, major infrastructure, tourism-related, power plants, telecommunication and resource extractive activities such as mining and quarrying are required to secure SEP Clearance pursuant to the provision in the Strategic Environmental Plan for Palawan Act or Republic Act 7611 before any undertakings are given approval for implementation.

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