Sta. Lourdes families won't leave toxic lake
Three families dwelling near the toxic lake in a mined- out area in Barangay Sta. Lourdes refused to leave and relocate despite a notice to vacate issued by the Puerto Princesa City government. Atty. Arnel Pedrosa, city administrator, said Monday that the three families are part of the 10 identified that live within the 20- meter restriction zone. “May tatlong ayaw magavail ng relocation at ayaw tumanggap ng financial assistance,” he said. Pedrosa told members of the City Council that the families refused to be relocated because the lands where their homes stand are titled properties. Earlier, the city government said it is considering Barangay Mangingisda as a possible relocation site for families that will be displaced by the rehabilitation of the abandoned ( Palawan Quicksilver Mines, Inc.) mine site. Milagros Eojelio, one of the affected families, said her almost five- hectare land was taken away by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau ( MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources ( DENR) that constructed a perimeter fence around the toxic lake. Eojelio said the MGB put a perimeter fence without permission from her family. “Nadismaya ako dahil bigla na lang binakod ng city yung lupa, ang punto ko ang tituladong lupa ay hindi pwedeng kuhanin ng gobyerno kung walang bayad,” she said. But MGB regional director Roland de Jesus said the perimeter fence was placed to protect the residents from wandering into to the mercury- contaminated lake. He said their relocation was sought by the Department of Health ( DOH) with the help of the city government for their “safety.” “It’s for their safety — to keep them away from further contamination. The most important thing is their health because the mineral there is naturally- occurring. Mining or no mining, the area is a health hazard that is why we are proposing to rehabilitate it and to convert it into an eco- tourism park,” De Jesus said. On land ownership, De Jesus said under Section 51 of the Water Code of the Philippines or Presidential Decree No. 1067, all bodies of water have delineated easement zones. “Sa water code may nakalagay doon na ang lahat ng water bodies dapat may easement zone. Para sa kaligtasan naman nila ito,” he pointed out. “The banks of rivers and streams and the shores of the seas and lakes throughout their entire length and within a zone of three meters in urban area, 20 meters in agricultural areas and 40 meters in forest areas, along their margins, are subject to the easement of public use in the interest of recreation, navigation, flotage, fishing, and salvage, he said citing the provision of the law.