MS 30th Anniversary XXX

Spare Lobo from destruction

I have written a number of articles in this column about Lobo, that municipality in Batangas, with long stretches of beautiful beaches, pristine waters and forests that are still home to monkeys, exotic birds, geckos, and other wild animals. And yes, I have said too that Lobo fronts the Verde Island Passage which is the northernmost tip of the center of the world’s marine biodiversity—now declared a protected area by the government. Lobo, as its residents always believed, is first and foremost, a paradise for the Filipino people and the world to appreciate and enjoy.

What many do not know is that Lobo is more than just a beautiful, scenic destination. Over a million years ago when most of Batangas , Laguna, Quezon, and Rizal, and all of Metro Manila and Cavite did not yet exist, Lobo highlands already existed, dotting the then-wide watery expanse of South China Sea which separated the Philippine archipelago from the rest of Asia mainland. The author of the article from which this information was sourced, Dr. Raymundo S. Punongbayan, said that all the land mass that we now know of, as well as Taal Lake, Laguna de Bay and Balayan Bay were the result of explosive volcanic eruptions in the geological past. Lobo, in other words, especially its imposing, beautifully-forested Lobo Mountain, is an ancient site which should have long been declared as a national park. History has it too that it was in the Lobo Mountain where General Miguel Malvar—the last Filipino general to surrender to the Americans in the Philippine American War—hid. He surrendered only because he wanted to end the suffering of his fellow Batangueños when the Americans employed scorching tactics. Gen. Malvar is considered as the unofficial second president of the Republic because he took over from the leadership of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo. 

Alas, all that Lobo now boasts of, environmentally, geographically and historically, are in grave danger of being destroyed. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is now seriously considering the application for gold mining operations in Lobo by Egerton Gold Phils. Inc. It is frightening that the proposed mining in Lobo will cover a vast expanse of land areas: one will have 137.1 hectares while the other, 125.2 hectares. It will impact nearly all of the coastal barangays, as well as the Mabilog na Bundok.

The projects’ fact sheets, albeit couched in sanitized technical terms, cannot conceal alarming facts. The waste types the mining will produce, according to the fact sheets, will affect the soil and water, specifically: “overburdens and waste rocks, domestic waste and garbage construction wastes, debris, tree cuttings, oily waste water from minor oil leaks from equipment, etc.” The major impacts will be: “disturbance of the existing terrestrial flora and fauna, disturbance of the existing access roads or construction of new roads, disturbance of the site topography or landform, discharge of treated waste water to adjacent surface water bodies and potential disturbance of aquifers during ore extraction.”

In laymen’s terms, the impact will mean driving away and eventually killing the wildlife inhabiting the forests of Lobo as trees will be cut and the earth will be destroyed by explosions to extract the minerals. It will also mean that the water resource for the entire community will be diminished as the mining operations will compete for substantial amounts of water for its operations. The trucks that will carry heavy equipment to the sites will destroy the roads which took years to build and, in fact, are still in the process of being completed. Worse, it will necessarily destroy the aquifers and poison bodies of water since water containing chemicals used in the processing of the minerals will have to be discharged to the soil, the rivers and creeks.  In turn, the poisoned waters will flow to the sea. What happens next to the coral reefs and the marine life of the touted Verde Island passage—the tip of the center of the world’s marine bio-diversity— is obvious.

The local government of Lobo, especially its mayor, Gaudioso Manalo, has been promoting and developing Lobo as a prime tourist destination. This is, perhaps, the biggest challenge he will face. Will he support the mining project that will destroy Lobo in the long term or will he make good his vision of making Lobo a prime tourist destination? Mining and tourism cannot co-exist. If employment is the promised benefit of the project, the fact sheets themselves show that the estimated number of people who will be employed will only be about 125. 

The book “Rich Lands, Poor People,” said, mining in India, contrary to the government’s claims, has done little for the development of the mineral-bearing regions.  Chandra Bhushan, one of the authors, said: “Mining has not benefited people; instead, it has impoverished local environments and displaced people.” The book also said, “All state governments justify mining arguing that the sector will provide employment, but this is a chimera.”

Lobo, an ancient town that has a rich history and is still wealthy in flora and fauna, as well as marine biodiversity, must be spared from destruction. It is a fact that mining only enriches the owners of the business. The soil and water are never restored to how they used to be and the people in the disturbed communities are left poorer than they ever were.


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