City dad calls Vitali ‘a sleeping giant’, bats for sustainable dev’t PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 22 April 2014 11:35

Calling Vitali “a sleeping giant” due to its huge untapped mineral resources, Councilor Charlie Mariano called for rationale utilization of resources to achieve sustainable development.

Speaking to almost 300 participants to the Information and Advocacy Conference on the Protection of Watershed held April 24 here, the city councilor made an appeal for the people to be heard on issues affecting their lives.

The conference was conducted by the Friends of the Zamboanga Watershed Movement (FZWM) in cooperation with the Social Action Center of the Roman Catholic Vitali Parish. FZWM is organized by Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra of the Silsilah Dialogue Movement.

Vitali has huge untapped mineral resources which could “tremendously contribute to the development of the city if we allow it to be tapped and developed responsibly,”Mariano said.

“In the city, we listen to people on issues adversely affecting them,” he said, and went on to say that “the people in Vitali District must be given the chance to be heard in a conference like this” before any decision being made.

“Mining is part of our lives,” he declared, adding,  “what is important is that we should closely monitor the mining activity if it conforms to the standards and regulations by the existing mining law of the country.”

Councilor Mariano pointed to the unabated quarrying in other parts of the city and other activities by irresponsible businesses that directly affects “our land and waters yet we do not oppose it.”

“It is time for Vitali to develop economically by utilizing the untapped mineral resources by which this place is so very rich provided we do it responsibly,” he stressed.

The issue, he said, is not about watershed because the proposed Vitali watershed is not a declared by law.

As far as the law is concerned, the city councilor clarified, the area is open to any mining activities since it is a declared watershed.

“We should be reminded that our government is a government of laws and not of men that we should make decisions according to existing laws,” he said in an apparent reference to Fr. D’Ambra statement.

Fr. D’Ambra earlier in the conference said “the concept of watershed is not determined by law but by the necessity” in order to support life as he stressed the importance of watershed in nurturing life.

The Italian priest told the participants during the opening of the conference that FZWM is “committed to promote dialogue with creation” in order to maintain the integrity of creation.

He urged the participants “not only to think what you can get from an activity today but what it will also give to your children in the future.”

“FZWM aims to promote the preservation and conservation of the six watershed areas of the city,” he said.

Of the six mentioned watershed in the city, only one is declared. Proclamation No. 132 declared “the Pasonanca Watershed Forest Reserve... as National Park”. The other five were only proposed watershed areas.

Vitali Barangay Chairman Lito Alavar, during the open forum, said “I do not see the danger to the environment of the present mining activities in the area.”

“I am on the forefront of opposing mining if it destroys our environment,” he declared to the applause of the participants.

“I am convinced that Atro Mining-Vitali is a responsible mining company and I don’t see the need to oppose it,” he added.

Atro Mining-Vitali, inc. (AMVI) is set to start production in its 2,017-hectare Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) area located here. The initial phase of production will focus on a 25-hectare site at Sitio Veronica which is expected to last for at least five years.

Mr. Elson Ogario, AMVI president, allayed fears once the mining operations will commence.

“Though we will be doing mining operations in the area, our presence there would greatly help in the betterment of the area, in the restoration of the forests, in the protection of the environment, in the prevention of landslides and erosion and ultimately, in creating a better watershed, especially when we already leave the area,” Mr. Ogario said.

Presently, the area is totally denuded.  Studies have shown that with the kind of soil prevalent in the area which is sedimentary, even during slow rains, erosion do happen bringing these soils into the river causing it to become brown and during heavy rain into chocolate brown.  Being denuded, flooding also do happen at Vitali Proper during heavy rain, abetted by the diversion of Mialim River.

But with AMVI’s presence, it can help to protect the environment, the company president assured.

Part of the operational plan, he revealed, is to put up “a siltation pond system in our mining area, proper drainage and sabo dams to help arrest the silts from flowing into the river systems.  We will also commit in reforesting the un-mineralized area and do progressive rehabilitation.”

On the question that AMVI’s mining operations endanger the water that flows in the proposed watershed or the water source found in the area, AMVI says otherwise.

The company president said: “We strongly disagree.  We will just be mining iron ore and we don’t use any chemicals.  Hence, whatever water that presently flows from the area into the river would just be basically the same water as the one flowing now.  As we have siltation pond systems, sabo dams and proper drainage systems, the water even that will flow from our mining area would be much cleaner. As we will be reforesting the area, we could even further enhance the watershed.”