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Government Confirms Fish from Agno, Ballog Rivers Safe to Eat

PHILIPPINES - A government agency study has revealed that fish from the Agno and Balog River are safe for human consumption.

The study conducted by Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in Cordillera showed that the recent sediment leakage from the damaged Tailings Pond 3 of the Philex Mining Corporation has no negative impact on the water and the living organisms in the river system which includes the plants and fishes and other living organisms, BFAR Cordillera Regional Director Lilibeth Signey said.

Ms Signey said although they discovered chemicals such as mercury, boron, arsenic and lead in the river system, these have no direct effect to the water and the fishes. She added that the chemical levels are still minimal and under a tolerable level for the living organisms and the river as well.

The BFAR discovered concentrations of chemicals in the river system but based on laboratory studies the chemicals cannot affect the water in the river and the living organisms, she said.

Ms Signey also added that there were no affected fishermen particularly their livelihood. No fisher from the areas affected came to seek assistance and help from the BFAR up to now.

Meanwhile, about 300 miners and office employees of Philex Mines have resumed the cleanup of Balog River to ensure the safety and cleanse of the river and more volunteers expressing their willingness to join the cleanup drive in the coming days.

Our personnel at Padcal have informed us that students and teachers at the Philex community in Benguet, and families living at the mine site and nearby areas have also signified their interest to participate in our cleanup drive, said Michael Toledo, senior vice president of PMC.

Volunteers will have to wait for a few more days until all the necessary logistics and structures are done, according to Robert Salamat, a metallurgical engineer who works at the Mill Division of PMCs Padcal Mine and head of the Environmental Team tasked to clean up the affected waterway.

The tailings pond of the mining company leaked last August after two weeks of heavy rains caused an unusual accumulation of rainwater in the tailings pond.The mines operation had been ordered suspended until the facility is rehabilitated, and for the company to pay fines.

Lucy Towers

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