Fisherfolk march to stop black sand mining in Aparri

Fisherfolk march to stop black sand mining in Aparri
Fisherfolk and environment groups hold a protest march in Aparri, Cagayan against black sand mining operations in the area on Earth Day, April 22. PHOTOS COURTESY OF MARK SALUDES

By CBCP News

April 22, 2022

Aparri, Cagayan

More than a thousand fisherfolk marked Earth Day to protest black sand mining operations in Cagayan province’s Aparri town.

The 1,700 fisherfolk from the town’s at least 12 barangays marched around the town to demonstrate their opposition to mining, which they say is being operated in the guise of river dredging.

It was the first time that a protest of this magnitude was organized in the town. The fisherfolk were joined by other groups from neighboring towns of Gattaran, Ballesteros, Buguey, Gonzaga, and Sta. Ana.

A prayer service was held at the San Pedro Telmo Parish Church where fisherfolk also shared the effects of the alleged mining operations to their livelihood and environment.

Fr. Manuel Catral, the parish priest, said the Earth Day event was intended to be a platform for the fisherfolk to express their depressing situation to the people of Aparri and its future leaders.

“Fishing is the lifeblood of Aparri. Its people’s identities are closely anchored in its waters,” Fr. Catral said.

“The Parish of San Pedro Telmo is united with the fisherfolk in their clamor to stop ecological plunder of the river and the seas and claim their economic, social, and cultural rights,” he said.

Fisherfolk report that the supposed river dredging project has gravely disturbed the ecosystem, messed with reproductive patterns of wildlife, decimated the fish and shrimp population, and considerably slashed the income of 11,000 fisherfolk and their families.

They also lamented the threat of erosion to an area that is already perennially inundated by floods brought about by strong rains and typhoons.

As a flood-control project, it defeats its purpose, they stressed.

According to them, the river restoration project went into full swing without proper consultation with the people, “and it’s time that the most affected have a voice in the process”.

“The dredging for black sand project has far-reaching ecological effects. Not only is it an urgent local issue, it is also a national issue that must not be dismissed,” Fr. Catral added.

Addressing government leaders, dried fish vendor Marlyne Bugarin cried, “We plead for your compassion!”.

“Our fervent hope is that disaster brought about by black sand mining be stopped. May the Lord touch your hearts so that you will heed our call,” she said.

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