Basis and Rationale
All of the Mt. Apo9 s 2,938 meters above sea level – doubtless the Lord of All Mountains- is an enthralling sigh to the behold. Towering over the south-southeastern Mindanao celestial expanse, on its entire range nestle hot springs, waterfalls and mountain lakes.
The lifeline of Mindanao, Mt. Apo feeds water systems of 19 major river systems and 21 creeks and tributaries of Davao City, Davao del Sur, Cotabato and Bukidnon. Of the 72,112 hectares, Mt. Apo’s forest stands only 33 percent. Home of 629 floral species, 363 faunal species and 19 endemic species and three rare amphibian species, Mt. Apo host rich minerals of gold, copper.
Before the formal entry of the Philippine National Oil Company Geothermal Project in the heart of Mt. Apo via an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) granted by the Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the PNOC had already made explorations from which it learned to generate up to 500 megawatts of electric power from the steam.
More than 20 wells lay permanent wounds on its skin which had long known verdant days. Two thick smoke billow from the wells that had been operated since 1995. Two other wells had been sealed , condemned and unfit for the plant operations, the other for emitting acid-laden vapors.
In 1995, a Japanese scientist, Hirumi Hironaka, detected arsenic poisoning in Matingao and Marbel Rivers, tributaries found on the volcano’s northwestern slopes. The two rivers tested high in arsenic , a known toxic metal, at 0.2 ppb. Allowable set by the World Health Organization account only for 0.05 ppb for adults and 0.01 for children.
Hairstrands taken form the villagers residing near the area also showed tell-tale signs of arsenic contamination, where the infants’ hair revealed toxicity three times than that of the mother. Hironaka theorized that the child have gotten the metal from the contaminated milk of the mother and the mother in urn may have drank contaminated water. Samples also yield deadly metals iike zinc, lead, mercury , cadmium and manganese.
After the hullabaloo of Hironaka’s findings, the Congressional Committee on Ecology attested the veracity of Hironaka’s reports. Congresswoman Socorro Acosta also initiated an investigation.
Lately, the PNOC waste materials and toxic effluents come in to the limelight when the Kisandal folks complained of the decrease of mollusk population in their area and the unknown deaths of carabaos. Rumblings of unknown origins were also experienced and reported by, residents around the Mt. Apo Geothermal project. In Barangay Sumbac, the residents suffered skin diseases due to the truckloads of waste materials from the PNOC geothermal Project were dumped in their area.
More than all, these, the Mt. Apo is a sacred ancestral domain to the lumads. To Bagobos, it is the home of Mandarangan, chief of bagobo war godsand several sites around the mountain hold spiritual significance to the other tribes in the same way as the christian regard their church.
So much price has been paid in terms of the lost and impaired lives, an unprecedented disunity wedging the lumads and dislocation oil their ancestral domain for PNOC and NAPOCOR continue its operations at the expense of further endangering the people and the environment. They did not even care to fulfill their promises of giving sustainable livelihood to the IPs in the area and the so-called direct – power line to the Province of Cotabato. Much more on the issue of environment which reflected in the current disposal of waste materials.
B. VMC in Columbio
Western Mining Corporation is a giant Australian mining -company that has entered into lumad area sometime in 1994 through their acquisition of Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement or FTAA which is named as ‘Columbio FTAA’ covering the area of 99,400 has., in the quadri-boundary of Davao del Sur, South Cotabato, Sarangani Province and North Cotabato, without the knowledge of the local populace and the local government unit. Thus, it has drawn negative reactions from the people.
In 1995, the people expressed their position against the company through a consultation with the presence of WMC but they did not respect the ‘No Stand’ of the people.
Series of petitions and resolutions were made by our organization and some of our neighboring provinces and municipalities headed by the provincial and local government units.
In 1997, we filed a a case at the supreme court to declare the Columbio FTAA illegal and unconstitutional but the supreme court has not yet ruled on the case up to now.
The opposition to WMC in Columbio is led by the CMEM, (Columbio Multi-sectoral Ecology Movement), a municipal federation of three different organizations; The La Bugal Tribal Association (organization of the Indigenous Peoples), Tambunaway Moro Farmers Association (for Muslims), Kahugpungan . sa mga Mag-uuma sa Columbio (Christian farmer Organization) and many concerned individuals, irrigators and professionals uited for the
protection and rehabilitation. of our environment. This group has been involved in the advocacy campaign against the intrusion of a giant mining company.
Inspite of those actions, WMC pursued their exploration and now they are at the final stage and preparing for their operation. The company employed many deceptive and manipulative tactics to divided the people by using their money and influence with the connivance of some local officials.
The tri-people of Columbio are aware of the irreversible effects of mining. They cannot allow mining activities into our productive agricultural lands. Moreover, they believe that no amount of expertise can control the damage brought about by man-made calamities. They have witnessed the experiences of Boac, Marindugue, Sipalay in Negros and in other places. Hence, they vow to hinder the WMC operation.
About Task Force Apo Sandawa
The Task Force Apo Sandawa (TFAS) is an alliance of various peoples’ and non-government organizations, religious institutions, academe and individuals united with the Indigenous People’s struggle for ancestral domain and self-determination and in promoting the integrity of creation towards genuine freedom and democracy.
It was organized in 1989 in support to the people’s opposition against Mt. Apo PNOC Geothermal Project.
As a major support group, TFAS links the IPs struggle with that of other sectors and oppose development aggression manifested by huge projects like the Mt. Apo Geothermal Project and western Mining Corporation.
The TFAS coordinates the efforts of the Tri-people (tribal, Moro and Christian farmers) to protect the IPS and the environment. Now we are planning a tri-people campaign for October which will focus on PNOC and WMC.
Amidst all these situations, the Task Force Apo Sandawa organizes an investigative trek to look further into the impact of the geothermal projects into the fragile environment and the people of Mt. Apo and the mountains in the penta-boundary affected by WMC operation.