[Press Release] Romblon officials cry foul over Sibuyan mining – www.alyansatigilmina.net

Said mining in island ecosystems should be strictly prohibited

Sibuyan, Romblon – Local government officials of rich-biodiversity Sibuyan island in Romblon province continue to express their dismay over the insistence of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and Sibuyan Nickel Properties Development Corporation (SNPDC) to push with a large nickel mine project.

It was discovered on Saturday that MGB and SNPDC conducted a meeting to create multi-partite monitoring team for a nickel mine project approved by then Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Lito Atienza, few days before he resigned from office in December 2009.

“We were caught unaware about this meeting, this is a gross disrespect to the local autonomy, they don’t even have any social license to operate and the three municipal councils issued a joint resolution against present and future mining projects,” said Mayor Dindo C. Rios of the municipality of San Fernando.

“As we join the whole world in celebrating the International Year of Forests, we commit ourselves to protect our island where the world’s densest forest flourishes; we will not allow mining to destroy our remaining forests in the Galapagos of Asia,” declared Rios.

According to MGB Region IV-B Director Roland de Jesus, MGB representatives “are monitoring the activities of Altai with SNPDC as assigned project holder as part of the conditionalities of the permit granted by the DENR.”

“We have already recommended the island of Sibuyan to be closed to mining,” disclosed de Jesus.

However, the MGB cannot exempt anymore Altai since it was already granted contract. Nevertheless, de Jesus clarified that the company is only allowed at this point in time to purely conduct exploration activities and not mining per se.

Meanwhile, environmental groups and local officials have been questioning the approval of the license.

“We challenge the validity of the mining permit because it did not pass through formal and transparent processes at the barangay level; it was not even endorsed by the municipal government because the company failed to submit necessary documents and requirements formally requested by the Sangguniang Bayan,” declared in a statement by Sibuyan Island Sentinels League for Environment / Sibuyanons Against Mining (Sibuyan ISLE/SAM).

According to Sibuyan ISLE/SAM, the mineral agreement comprising an area of 1,580.8 hectares may be considered as a midnight deal signed by former DENR Secretary Lito Atienza a few days he resigned from his post in 2009.

The provincial government of Romblon through an executive order signed by Governor Eduardo C. Firmalo created a special task force to assess and investigate the approval of the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) granted to Altai Philippines Mining Corporation, which is now assigned to SNPDC at the local level.

“After series of dialogues and consultations in the three municipalities of Sibuyan, the consensus was that mining is detrimental to the health of the people and to the environment of the island, and that the costs and negative effects which may brought about by mining could not be compensated for by economic benefits of mining,” Firmalo said.

For the provincial government, eco-tourism and agriculture are more sustainable for such a delicate and high-biodiversity island ecosystem.

Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina added, “Romblon is a province composed of island ecosystems, just like Palawan, it is fragile and home to many species of flora and fauna that needs to be protected.”

Additionally, House Bill No. 4415 entitled: “An Act Declaring the Province of Romblon a Mining Free Zone, and Providing Penalties for Violations Thereof” has been authored and filed by lone district of Lone Lone district of Romblon representative Eleandro Jesus F. Madrona which aims to fully protect the natural resources as well as the health of the residents of the affected areas in the province.

”We are all aware of the harmful effects of metallic mining and we cannot sacrifice the lives and the livelihood of our people; I am therefore, elated that the local government units through their respective resolutions support this legislative measures,” explained Madrona.

Backed with scientific references on the importance of biodiversity and citing the findings of Mines and Geosciences Bureau that Romblon Islands especially Tablas and Sibuyan are generally highly susceptible to floods and landslides, the bill seeks to promote preservation of ecological biodiversity and disaster risk reduction.

Meanwhile DENR Secretary aspirant Neric Acosta in his Facebook page said, “There are few places left in the country with such delicate and rich ecosystems, with the highest endemism of flora and fauna. Sibuyan must be a national ecological preserve, which should earn far more for the island from eco-tourism, scientific research, and environmental education programs, than finite extractive activities.”

Garganera concluded, “We support Gov. Firmalo and Cong. Madrona for their serious stance to protect the peoples of Romblon and its biodiversity. As we celebrate the International Year of Forests, let us keep in mind the importance of the forests and the whole island ecosystem that serves as the refuge of communities.”

Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) is an alliance of mining-affected communities and their support groups of NGOs/POs and other civil society organizations who are opposing the aggressive promotion of large-scale mining in the Philippines.

Press Release
May 17, 2011
For more information:
Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator, (0927) 761.76.02 <nc@alyansatigilmina.net>
Farah Sevilla, ATM Policy & Advocacy Officer, (0915) 331.33.61 <policy@alyansatigilmina.net>


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.