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FOOD NEWS & INFORMATION
Fishers blame firm's wastes for fish kill
Posted by Yel Cobile, IT Admin & Correspondent on July 11, 2012, 10:00 pm

(By Joey A. Gabieta, Inquirer Visayas, 11 July 2012)

MACARTHUR, Leyte --- Residents of Barangay (village) Imelda here are up in arms against a mining firm that they accused of causing a fish kill that affected one of their main sources of income --- tilapia-raising.

The residents tied a rope across the street at the boundary of Barangays Imelda and Pongon to prevent the heavy equipment of Nicua Mining Corp. from getting near their quarry site in Saloquege Creek, Barangay Pongon.

"We will not allow them to enter our village. This is ours and we will not allow them to cause further destruction," said Jesus Cabias, president of Bito Lake Fisherfolk Association.

The fisherfolk claimed that Nicua extracts magnetite black sand in the creek. The wastes and silt from the mining operation have reached Lake Bito, triggering the fish kill, according to the residents.

Cabias, who owns three fish cages, said the fishermen lost more than 21,000 kilograms of tilapia worth P1.7 million during the fish kill.

"This is where 90 percent of the people of Imelda get their source of income. But because of the fish kill, which we blame on the mining company, it's all gone," Cabias said on Wednesday.

The Inquirer called and sent text messages to Nicua resident manager, engineer Elmer Ragas, but to no avail.

But Justerie Granali, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Eastern Visayas (BFAR-8) acting director, said they could not conclude yet that the mining operation caused the fish kill although they were not discounting the possibility.

Too many fish pens?

But she said another factor that may have triggered the fish kill was too many fish pens at Lake Bito that depleted the oxygen in the water.

Under the Fisheries Code of the Philippines, only 10 percent of a lake should be allotted to fish pens and cages, she said.

But 49 hectares of Lake Bito, or 28 percent of the total area of 169 ha, were "occupied" by fish pens or cages.

BFAR-8 records also showed that 30 fishermen own fish pens and cages at the lake.

Nicua has been extracting black sand mining in Saloquege Creek since 2010. The creek separates Barangays Pongon and Imelda and is linked to Lake Bito, which also spans Barangays Imelda, Romualdez, Danao, Maya and Liwayway in MacArthur town, 52 kilometers away from Tacloban City.

Cabias said the creek had been heavily silted.

"They claim to just dredge the creek. But what they are doing is actually mining which has now resulted in the pollution of Lake Bito where our fish pens and cages are located," Cabias said.

Cabias said he could not say how many fish pen owners were affected by the fish kill. "But the damage to my fish pens was so astounding that I just refused to quantify my losses," he told Inquirer.

But before the fish kill, he was harvesting at least 2,000 kg of tilapia a year.

Imelda Barangay Captain Ronaldo Mentes said their protest actions would continue until the mining firm stopped its operations. "We will not stop defending our rights so long as they are here… We will not stop our protest until they leave the area and stop completely their mining operations."


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