Greenpeace statement on the detention of an employee conducting environmental water sampling in Rapu Rapu Island

Press release - July 25, 2006
Greenpeace condemns the police detention of David Andrade, a Greenpeace employee who was apprehended and detained by police while obtaining water samples from Mirikpitik creek in Brgy. Pagcolbon in Rapu Rapu Island early this morning.

Greenpeace Southeast Asia Campaigns Director Von  Hernandez said:

"Greenpeace was conducting environmental water sampling in the island to validate recent reports of a fish kill which occurred in the area last week, and which Lafayette claims to be a case of sabotage. Andrade was collecting water samples from the said creek when two policemen 'invited' him at gun point for questioning at Pagcolbon's town hall where he was harassed by police, military, and several private security personnel who wore no proper uniform nor identification, and who refused to identify themselves. Andrade was then illegally searched, his water samples and sampling sheets confiscated, and was escorted by armed policemen to their detachment in Rapu Rapu town. Police did not identify under what charge he was being held. The area where he was collecting samples was unfenced public land."

"Lafayette and the DENR claim full transparency in the conduct of Lafayette's mining operation particularly during the 30 day test run which the DENR approved last 11 July 2005. But this is obviously not the case. Rapu Rapu island today, even public areas outside the boundaries of Lafayette mine, is apparently a high security zone, tightly guarded not just by the police and military, but also by private security personnel. Monitoring and inspection by independent parties concerned about the negative effects of the mining operation is heavily discouraged and even prevented."

"The heavy police security deployed to protect Lafayette's operations, and the prevention of independent monitoring bodies to conduct sampling bodes ill for Rapu Rapu and nearby coastal communities. In this connection, the government's intention is obvious: this mining operation is being protected regardless of the consequences it will inflict on the island's surrounding marine environment, and the communities who benefit from these seas."

"Instead of defending a mining operation which is damaging and detrimental to the island's fragile marine ecosystem, the DENR should stay true to its mandate of upholding our citizens' rights to live in a safe and healthy environment. The public has a right to know what real impacts Lafayette's mining operations have on the environment, and that right should never be thwarted by police and military harassment especially in the service of myopic corporate interests."

Other contacts: Von Hernandez, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Campaigns Director, +63 917526 3050 David Andrade, Campaigns Department, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, +63 434 7034 loc 104 Lea Guerrero, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Media Campaigner, +63 916 374 4969

Notes: Greenpeace employee David Andrade was detained and questioned by police and unidentified security personnel in Brgy. Pagcolbon, Rapu Rapu island at 8:45AM 25 July 2006 after he was apprehended for obtaining water samples from Mirikpitik creek. Two companions, a local guide and a boat man, were taken with him. They were then brought first to Pagcolbon´s town hall then to the police headquarters in Rapu Rapu town and released shortly after noon of the same day. Police did not identify under what charge he was being held. Greenpeace was conducting this water sampling as a way of validating recent reports of a fish kill which occurred in the area last week and which Lafayette claims to be a case of sabotage. Lafayette started its 30 day test run on July 11, 2006. On July 13, 2006 a leak, which DENR later dismissed as a minor incident, occurred during operations. On July 21, 2006 residents reported a fish kill in Mirikpitik creek in Rapu Rapu Island. Lafayette has dismissed the fish kill with allegations of sabotage. During its few months of operation, the mining company showed negligence with regard to its operations. (During the Rapu Rapu Fact-finding Commission hearings in April-May 2006, Lafayette officials in fact admitted that they mined "too fast, too soon" even while the mine´s structural safeguards meant to minimize environmental damage were not yet completed.) As a result, after heavy rains in October 11 and 31, 2005, cyanide and other contaminants from the mine spilled into the sea and around the island, resulting in massive fish kills which Lafayette, to this day, continues to downplay. Greenpeace maintains that pollution from Lafayette´s mining operations will seriously damage Rapu Rapu and its surrounding fragile marine ecosystem. The waters of the Bicol region are acknowledged as the feeding grounds and migratory route of the whale shark, the largest fish in the sea. It is also home to five of the seven known marine turtles in the world, and its rich sea grass beds and mangroves, which make for a high marine biodiversity index, have turned the area into exceptionally rich fishing grounds for the region´s fishermen. Rapu Rapu island is a dangerous place for a mine: not only is it situated along the country´s typhoon belt, but also along a major fault, making it a high-risk area for mining catastrophes.