Gobierno de ChileFishers Open Letter to President Piñera

La Serena, May 2, 2018
 
Mister
Sebastián Piñera Echeñique
President of the Republic
 
Sebastián Piñera EcheñiqueDear Mr. President,
 
As the Fishers and Citzens Collective of the Community Association of La Higuera and the Coquimbo Region, we are turning to you with an open letter, in order to voice our profound indignation that the government had decided not to lodge an appeal to the High Court against the April 27th verdict of the First Environmental Court in Antofagasta. With that verdict, the corporation Andes Iron's objection against the decisions of the governmental agency responsible for the environmental compatibility review and the Committee of Ministers was accepted, with the putative argument that “this time the procedure will follow valid law.”
 
How can the government and the environmental court guarantee and assure us that the environmental compatibility review will “this time” proceed according to valid law, when the environmental court  accepts a manipulated assessment as correct and does so without further review, and requires a new vote on the matter, without the company having first addressed and eliminated the faults of the intended Project?
 
How can we trust when,

1. a way is paved by your government for a company that was not willing in its description of the affected area, to even mention the already-existing natural protection area. In this way Andes Iron sought to prevent the relevant authorities from being able to conduct a responsible evaluation of the project's expected impact on this protected area, on the marine areas approved for small-scale fishing, and on the protected areas that exist for threatened species to be able to feed, etc.
 
2. your government paves a way for a company that was not capable of appropriately gauging the value of the Humboldt Archipeligo for fishing productivity, not capable of evaluating the value of maintaining biological diversity in the area, and not capable of seeing the value of special tourism, a company that regardless of the price, insists on building another industrial port for the shipment of bulk ore.
 
3. the court orders – and the government supports the court therein – that the assessment process of the environmental compatibility be remanded back to the point in time immediately after the ICE (the Final Report from the SEA). In so doing, all of Chile knows that this report was manipulated and that the assessments made by the subject-matter-experts were not reflected in the report. For that very reason, the regional government at the time – the one that noticed this abnormality, voted as a majority to reject the report, since it could not be guaranteed that there would be no negative impact on the marine habitat and the there-found AMERBs (governmentally-protected areas for the harvesting of shellfish, that themselves are under protected status).
 
4. the court orders – and again the government supports the court – on the basis of the manipulated ICE, without any additional assessment evaluation, to vote again on the project, this vote to be done by the new regional Government.
 
5. the environmental court ignored the grave, substantial deficiencies of the intended project. As a result, it is not possible for the project to guarantee that 1. no irreperable damage to the ecosystem of the “Humboldt Archipeligo” (consisting of the islands of  Pájaros Grande, Pájaros Chico, Tilgo, Chungungo, Totoralillo Norte, Gaviotas, Damas, Choros and Chañaral) will result, and 2. the water in the entire valley of Los Choros will not be negatively impacted.
 
6. On the other hand, how could we – residents of the community, of the region, and of Chile – trust that this time things will be done correctly, when the opinion of scientists and academics was completely and systematically ignored. Subject-matter-experts have repeatedly, in different instances before the regional government and subject-specific commissions, proven that the Humboldt Archipeligo is a very highly sensitive ecosystem, and that with just one industrial port – and even more so two, or even three – considerable, irreversable damage would be caused. What a contradiction it is, when scientists are required to offer their services to the government, and then once they have gotten involved, have themselves totally ignored by this same Government.
 
7. In addition, how can we trust when without suitable participation, information and discussions territorial instruments such as the PRI (supra-regional development plan) were changed, or instead were “customized” strictly for economic interests? For five years, through citizen participation, guiding principles were worked out as to how to best recommend the coastal region of La Higuera be appropriately protected and the nature and biodiversity preserved. But then in one single governmental sitting, these guiding principles were adulterated, and the affected area declared an “area approriate for the building of industrial port facilities.”
 
8. How can we trust today, when it is ignored that this archipeligo, because of its extraordinary qualities, has been internationally identified by experts as a hot – and hopespot – for the preservation of biodiversity on the planet, and that instead nothing is untertaken by your government to protect this one-of-a-kind ecosystem?
 
9. We ask ourselves what really is behind the Dominga Project, when all of these factors are ignored, the truth bastardized, public opinion manipulated, previously-agreed-to committments not adhered to, environmental law interpreted and distorted in the service of certain interests, and the resources of the entire country gravely endangered?
 
10. You yourself, Mr. President, in 2010, through a surprising act, prevented the building of the Barrancones coal-fired power plant and publicly declared (and we quote), “I have a very powerful and deep personal responsibility to protect the wonders of nature and the environment, the plants, animals and biodiversity; it is a responsibility for life...I am endlessly pleased to have found a solution, one that under respect for our nation of law, has been able to protect this natural sanctuary. As President I feel myself filled with tremendous happiness, and even more as a citizen, to be able to preserve this marvel, this holy place of nature...” What has changed today, such that this holy place can now be threatened?
 
11. In short, Mr. President, we hold it to be a duty of the State to safeguard the interests of Chile. The State must not allow a company using all available means, to threaten the interests of the country through an irresponsible project that threatens the Humboldt Archipeligo and the people that live and work there. The Environmental Ministry and the Agencies responsible for the Environmental Impact Assessment must appeal the decision to the Chilean Supreme Court, in order to guarantee that environmental law will in fact be abided by and more precisely, that the precautionary principle upon which the law is grounded upon, is adhered to. That is the only way to guarantee sustainable development. Should this project be approved, it will be a shame for the entire country of Chile.
 
The following organizations have joined in this open letter:
 
Federación de Pescadores de la comuna de La Higuera
A.G. de Trabajadores del Mar Independientes Punta de Choros
Agrupación de Trabajadores Independientes de Caleta Hornos
Movimiento de Defensa del Medio Ambiente - MODEMA
Organización de Desarrollo y Fomento al Turismo Punta de Choros-  ODEFOT
Agrupación Mujeres Orilleras de Caleta Hornos
Sindicato de Pescadores Buzos y Recolectores de Orilla La Cruz de Chungungo
A.G. de Pescadores y Mariscadores Los Choros
A.G. de Pescadores de Chungungo
Agua Potable Rural de Punta de Choros
Cooperativa Pesquera comercializadora Los Choros
Juntas de Vecinos de Los Choros
Cooperativa Punta Norte de Punta de Choros
Asociación de Pequeños Propietarios Agrícolas de Los Choros
Consejo Consultivo Conjunto Reserva Nacional Pingüino de Humboldt y Reserva Marina Choros-Damas
Pequeñas empresas de turismo, avistamiento de cetáceos y aves marinas,
gastronomía alojamiento y entretención.
Comuneros de la Comunidad Agrícola de Los Choros
Asociación de Mujeres Delicias de Punta de Choros
Defensa Ambiental IV Región
Red Ambiental Norte - La Serena
Red Ambiental Norte - Coquimbo
Acción Ecosocial IV
Revolución de la Cuchara Chile
Frente EcoSocial Elqui
Unidad Movimiento de Acción Social Región Coquimbo
Estudiantes de La Serena y Coquimbo
Newen Kallfu Coquimbo
NiUnaMenos Coquimbo La Serena
Federación Estudiantes Secundarios Serena Coquimbo -FESC
Agrupación de Mujeres Defensoras del Patrimonio Natural La Higuera
Sphenisco Región de Coquimbo
Defensores del Patrimonio Natural de la Región de Coquimbo
Valles en Movimiento de Monte Patria
   
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