Nimrod L. Delante
First Posted 12:42 AM 09/16/2009
If you happen to google www.biliranisland.com, you will probably be enthralled about Biliran Island as a province because it is blessed with natural wonders, the reason why most Biliranons would claim it an island paradise. Undoubtedly, Biliran, as most (if not all) foreign and local tourists would normally say, is an island worth visiting because of its scenic mountains and falls, its hot springs and rustic beaches. But is it worth a visitation if damage has already been done to the rawest nature of the province? I therefore say, “You be the judge.”
Geographically speaking, Biliran is endowed with huge mountains that basin the rivers, falls, and springs necessary for plant and crop vegetation aside from being the people’s source of water. Minerals and soil elements also thrive in the mountains. For one, the mountain located near Sitio Pulang Yuta, Brgy. Cabibihan, Caibiran, Biliran is a rich source of sulfur. This is manifested by the yellow or rust-like color of the rocks and stones of Pulang River as named by the local folks. Sulfur, as the chemical element denoted with the symbol S, is an abundant, multivalent, non-metallic substance that is commonly found in mountains. In its native form, it is a yellow crystalline solid or mineral that can be in a form of pure element or as sulfide and sulfate minerals. It occurs widely in nature especially in the mountains in several and free combined allotropic forms (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sulfur).
Sulfur has many uses. Its commercial uses are primarily in fertilizers, but it is also widely used in black gunpowder, matches, insecticides and fungicides. One of the direct uses of sulfur is in vulcanization of rubber, where polysulfides crosslink organic polymers. As a component of gunpowder, it reacts directly with methane to give out carbon disulfide, which is used to manufacture cellophane and rayon. Sulfur compounds are also used in detergents, dyestuffs, and agrichemicals, even in pharmaceuticals. Sulfur is also an ingredient in some acne and psoriatic treatments. Other important applications of sulfur include oil refining, wastewater processing, and mineral extraction (Ibid, pp. 3-4).
God, without doubt, blessed the Biliranons with the abundance of this natural resource, which will definitely provide means of living to the local folks if the province initiates to invite local and outside entrepreneurs to introduce and manage small-scale industries in order to enhance local employment opportunities without causing harm to the environment not to mention its detrimental effects to people’s health when possible mining occurs.
However, things have gone wrong in Caibiran just lately. The almost 7-month old large-scale mining which was previously unknown to the general public started to give a caveat to the environment and the locals. Indeed, with nature’s rich resource of minerals would come certain damages that man can ever bring if such resources are not properly taken cared of because of the dominance of his ill-fated personal goals. With man’s intention to tap these resources for mining and industrial pursuits, destruction of nature may arise which may further lead to put people’s lives at stake.
This warning just started to bring havoc to Caibiran weeks ago when typhoon Feria struck the province with a heavy downpour of rain. It was awful for the people of Caibiran to see a big part of their mountain washed away by flood brought about by the typhoon. A huge mass of soil was eroded. Everyone who saw the incident was tremored (As a matter of fact, if you want to see a proof, visit the website mentioned above and watch the videos and pictures uploaded therein). A number of ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ were asked about the incident. In the end, a matter worth a legal discussion was laid down on the table: the conduct of sulfur-mining activities caused the environmental mayhem.
Questions from among the people and concerned groups arose: Who decided and agreed for the sulfur mining to take effect in Caibiran? Was there a consensus between those who approved to undergo mining activities and the people who live near the place or other concerned citizens? Was there proper information dissemination about the matter or did it undergo public consultation? Do incidents like what just happened anticipated? Did the decision to conduct (or not to conduct) mining involve other concerned agencies in the local and provincial government? Was this carefully thought of before signing a MOA or approving whatever contract was agreed on? The questions go on and on. But the most important question that was asked is: Who was the signatory? Well, the news must have provided you with the answer. I then advise you to visit www.biliranisland.com and read Borrinaga’s news article (23 January 2009) or that editorial of concern by a Biliran.Island.com staff posted on 01 December 2008 for you to get an idea.
As a Biliranon who considers Biliran as my home, I can’t help but be saddened by this event due to man’s transgression or to put it vividly, due to his self-vested interests. Now that this calamity occurred, who suffered? Who would be suffering? Who else will be affected if the same calamity happens soon? The litany of questions continues to pile up in our heads. If this is only the beginning, what is in store ahead of the local folks?
In an article I read in an environmental magazine (Brucker, 2005), the damage that a mining company brings to people and the environment is colossal. With mining, big holes dug underground with a large amount of soil taken out would cause the upper layers of soil to collapse and eventually be eroded during earthquakes and heavy rains. Representative Glen A. Chong, a first-timer solon as congressman of the Lone District of Biliran who joins the call of the Biliranons to stop the mining operations in Caibiran, even stressed that mining operations disturb the ecological and environmental balance that contributes to the general well-being of the communities, and in the absence of specific guarantees for mining restoration after extraction, the communities would stand to suffer irreparable damage not only in the present generation but the future generations as well (Victoria, December 2008).
The damaging effects of mining operations are as strong or even stronger to that of illegal logging. As cited at http://tripatlas.com/2006, Congressman Roger Mercado of Southern Leyte disclosed in a Reuters’ interview that logging and mining done in Guinsaugon, St. Bernard three decades ago was the main culprit for the Southern Leyte mudslides in 2006 which killed thousands of innocent lives. Dave Petley, professor at the International Landslide Centre, Durham University, even told the BBC during an interview that the causes mentioned, if proven true, created a “dangerous combination” that produced a “classic landslide scenario” (Ibid, p. 2). Well then, it was indeed a classic mudslide that more or less shook the world.
Now, if we are left blind and would continue to believe in the revocation of the mining operations as a bureaucratic buffer, what do you think will happen to Caibiran soon? Shall we expect something more horrifying than what just happened? Shall we wait until hundreds or thousands of innocent lives be taken? People need to do something like what the pro-environment and cause-oriented community in Tucdao, Kawayan did when they heard of a possible white clay mining near their place (Borrinaga, January 2009). After all, it doesn’t take a battalion to impact a change. The awareness and vigilance of the local folks and cause-driven groups are of paramount importance.
Take note, if nature strikes back, it will be very deadly. Thus, man has to treat nature with utmost care and responsibility. What we need now are solutions. And I think, the best solution there is, is to STOP these mining activities in Caibiran. If it has been stopped, let us not remain speculative of how long this triumph could be sustained. Furthermore, I think the concerned officials shall sit down together to review, discuss, and reinforce existing policies and regulations about matters concerning the environment and its protection for the people’s safety and for the future of the coming generations. After all, people put officials in political positions for a legitimate purpose.
To realize this, they need to walk the talk.
BiliranIsland.com.Staff “This Land is Mined” An Editorial of concern. November 30, 2008
Borrinaga, Rolando O. “Vigilant Community halts Mineral Mining in Biliran.” January 23, 2009
Brucker, Michellein. “The Effects of Mining.” February 2005.
Victoria, Rodrigo S. “Rep. Chong joins Call of Biliranons to stop mining operations in the province.” December 10, 2008.
Thank you for this information.
This is a wake up call for all of us to leave our environment on its natural state..
The liability is worth more that the amount of money that have been received from this activities..
There in an uncertain future and effects that will surely be given back to us out of this inconsiderate gestures of our crook leaders iin the island…
No amount of justifications is enough to rectify this mistakes.. The future of our children depends on the way they have handled this inhuman acts of some.
Thanks for your uplifting article.
Biliran islands unspoiled natural beauty with its white sandy beaches, high mountains still covered by virgin forrests, spectacular falls, little paradise beaches, rice terraces and scenic views over the seas (just to mention a few), are indeed worth a visit for all us eco-minded foreign tourists. Not to mention the pollution free environment. The fresh scent and the crispy air from the forrests are still in my mind years after my visits to Biliran. My longing to go back never fades.
May I ask a few questions? What is going on with the mining activities? Could the damage ever be repaired? How about the drinking water and the water supply to the rice fields near Caibiran? Sadly, but a fact, typhoon Feria wasn´t the last destructive typhoon hitting your island, but maybe the wake up call needed for an open and honest debate about the mining activities. I think that dialogue is a responsibility to the future of our children. God, what I miss your beautiful province. Thank you and take care from Sweden.
I forgot to mention a mining experience from Sweden.
In the north of Sweden we have many mines. Some, huge open iron mines creating colossal environmental concerns. In one of those open mines, the holes dug, are so huge and deep, that they undermined an area bigger than the whole of Biliran province. Time after time parts of the city of Kiruna, in order to be saved, had to move to another location because of those mining activities. But that wasn´t enough. Now, the whole city are threatened and there is a decesion to move the whole city to another location. Can you grasp it? Move a whole city! Homes, official buildings, churches and residents has to find a new place kilometers away. If they don´t move, the mine has to close and the residents are out of work. Before they started the mining operation, Kiruna was only a small town living the traditional way using the land etc., but as the mine got bigger and bigger so did the town. Today the mine has become gigant and a concern for generations to come.
I don´t know what to say about this issue but I heard that arcitects are happy about it anyway. I guess there will be plenty of job for them. PS there is some pictures and articles about this on the web. Thanks again.
THANK YOU MOTHER NATURE FOR THE BEAUTY OF OUR BELOVED PROVINCE.LETS MAKE IT CLEAN AND GREEN.HELP DISSIMINATE NATURE PRESERVATION.SALAMAT PO!
If only officials can do thier job well for the people. If only… Sometimes, I tend to be skeptical and even cynical about change in the province. But thanks to those who really work hard for the glory of the Biliranons, I still have this faith that keeps me believing… I wish to tell all my fellow Biliranons that my purpose to write this article is for us to have the sensibility and consciousness that a lot of things have been happening in the province that need our attention. Let’s not be contented sitting down in our couch. Let’s try to reach out and offer suggestions and solutions…
Why do we need to write? Why do we need to publish articles? Because, we cannot afford to forget what we ought not to forget.