34 fishermen in Puerto Princesa relocated after mercury contamination

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Photo from BFAR Mimaropa

(CNN Philippines, September 15) — Several fishermen affected by mercury contamination in Puerto Princesa, Palawan have been relocated to a different town, the regional Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said Thursday.

Thirty-four fishermen from barangays Sta. Lourdes and Tagburos have been transferred 15 kilometers away to Brgy. Pag-asa, Kalayaan town.

The mercury contamination in Puerto Princesa was the result of unrehabilitated mined-out area of Palawan Quicksilver Mine Incorporated (PQMI) that operated in Puerto Princesa from 1954 to 1976.

Exposure to mercury, even in small amounts, can cause neurological and behavioral disorders, as well as kidney failure, according to the World Health Organization.

Kalayaan town has a population of approximately 1,000. Only around 100 people are actually residing in the area, along with some military personnel.

BFAR Regional Director Elizer Salilig said the relocation was a collective decision of the Task Force Mercury of Puerto Princesa, which includes the Bureau of Mines, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, BFAR and the local government.

BFAR, along with the local government, said they will be providing financial and logistics assistance to relocated fishermen and their families such as motorized banca, fiberglass boats, and P5,000 cash, among others.

In a press briefing last February 9, former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez said the mercury mining company left after prices went down.

Lopez said the mercury level in Puerto Princesa reached by 12, when what is allowable in the human body is only at 0.002.

Palawan Quicksilver also left a mining pit, which measures almost three hectares and 30 meters deep. This was converted into a man-made lake, where communities grow and fish tilapia for livelihood.

READ: Residents resist mine rehab in Puerto Princesa over displacement concerns