A food advocacy group on Monday urged President Duterte anew to recall his approval of an offshore mining project in Lingayen Gulf, Pangasinan, pointing out that it would be detrimental to domestic tourism industry and fish production.
Citing marine experts and other industry stakeholders, Tugon Kabuhayan claimed that the impact of the proposed offshore mining project by the Iron Ore, Gold, Vanadium Resources (Phils.) Inc. will do more harm than good to the industries surrounding Lingayen Gulf.
The group said Duterte must recall the project’s Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) No. 07-2020-IOMR, which he approved last year, before the potential adverse impacts of the project materialize.
The project seeks to extract 25 million dry metric tons of black sand per year in Lingayen Gulf.
University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute scientist Dr. Fernando P. Siringan explained that the seabed mining would cause several negative consequences to the environment such as resuspension and dispersal of fine-grained materials, which will disturb the habitat of marine organisms around the gulf.
“The resuspension and dispersion will also dig up cysts buried in the ocean sediment, which will lead to harmful algal bloom, or more commonly known as red tide,” Siringan said during the bimonthly virtual news briefing organized by Tugon Kabuhayan.
Siringan added that the seabed mining may also potentially release undesired metals and other harmful compounds back into the water, which may pollute the food chain since the gulf is home to about a quarter of the country’s bangus supply.
“The location of the project is covered in more than 10 meters deep of thick and muddy material which will be first extracted, then sorted and dumped back into the ocean,” he said.
“The undesired materials will be carried onto the entire gulf, release harmful pollutants in the water columns and awaken organic materials that can go directly to the food chain,” he added.
Siringan added that the offshore mining project might exacerbate coastal erosion in the area, leaving residents near the water more vulnerable to strong waves during typhoons.
Tugon Kabuhayan said Lingayen Gulf, which covers 2,064 square kilometers of water, has been declared as an environmentally critical area (ECA) in 1993 through Proclamation 156 signed by President Fidel Ramos.
“The proclamation’s aims are to sustain production of fish and other marine products, preserve genetic diversity, protect natural features, and enhance outdoor recreation, among others,” it said.
“The livelihood of 44,517 fisherfolk from the municipalities of Pangasinan and La Union surrounding the gulf are likely to be impacted by the proposed project; as well as the fish supply of the almost 4 million combined population of the said provinces,” it added.
The group earlier explained that the Lingayen Gulf has around 3,000 cages for bangus, thousands of hectares and fishponds, hundreds of fishpens with an estimated production from bangus cages alone at 125,000 to 150,000 metric tons.