Fishermen reported another fishkill in Lake Bito in MacArthur town in Leyte on Saturday, blaming mining activities for the environmental disaster.
“We did not bother to count how many of the fishes floated. All we knew is that it only further compounded our misery,” said Jesus Cabias, president of the Bito Lake Fisherfolk Association.
Cabias said Nicua Mining Corp. opened its settling pond in Barangay (village) Villa Imelda, resulting in increased murkiness and contamination of the lake. Dead tilapia were seen floating all over the lake where fish pens and cages are found as water flowed out of the pond, he said.
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) found oil and grease in Lake Bito which could have come from equipment used by Nicua, the agency’s regional director, Justerie Granali, said.
But Granali maintained that the fish kill could not be solely attributed to the mining activities. “It is just one of the contributory factors which include improper disposal of human wastes and overstocking of the lake by fish pens and cages,” she said.
Lake Bito hosts fish pens and cages occupying a total of 49 hectares or more than 10 percent of the required area set by the Fisheries Code of the Philippines. The lake size is 115 ha.
A BFAR investigation of the latest fishkill showed similar results as the first one. Cabias’ group claimed that the silting operations of the mining firm had led to the pollution of Lake Bito and a fishkill on March 15.
Romulo Babatugon, chief of the mining supervising unit of the regional Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), said a team from his office went to Lake Bito to investigate the fishkill report.
“If there is indeed a violation committed by the mining company, we have no choice but to order its suspension. Of course, due process will be observed here,” Babatugon said.
Nicua, which is engaged in black sand mining, has been granted a permit by the MGB in November 2010.
Cabias said his group would continue to protest against the operations of the mining company.
“What they did to us not only resulted in the destruction of our environment but the very lake which provides us our source of income,” he said in a phone interview yesterday. Joey Gabieta, Inquirer Visayas