[Right-Up] In Solidarity to the Brave People of Sibuyan Island | by Jose Mario De Vega

In Solidarity to the Brave People of Sibuyan Island

I joined our people in condemning to the highest possible degree the extremely violent dispersal done by the powers that be recently against the brave people of Sibuyan Island who are peacefully protesting collectively and airing their disgust and rejection of the intended mining activities to their beautiful province.

Their resistance was through a human barricade was forcefully manhandled and viciously dismantled by the police which is a grave violation of the protestors constitutionally sacred rights. I cannot help but wonder, why it is that the police are trampling on the rights of the citizens, the very people that pay taxes in order for those idiots to have their salaries. Hence, I have to ask the categorical questions no matter how inconvenient and uncomfortable they may be: who are they serving and who are they protecting? It is clear that they are not for the people’s welfare; it is correct to inquire: are they also in the pay roll of the mining industry?

I forge my solidarity to the valiant people of Sibuyan Island and throwing my full support to their just struggle for a balance nature and ecological harmony.

I am also supporting the proposed Senate inquiry by Senator Hontiveros not only to look at the root cause of all these issues but primordially to investigate the mining activities in the area and determined who are the culprits who uses excessive force in the brief scuffle that erupted and shown all over the world, as usual to the shame of all Filipinos.

To quote for the Senator herself:
“Hindi dapat nauuwi sa karahasan ang mapayapang pagtutol ng mga residente sa pang-hihimasok ng mga kumpanyang nagmimina sa sarili nilang tahanan. Gusto lamang protektahan ng mga residente ang likas-yaman sa kanilang lugar. The residents are well within their rights to protest…”

Nonetheless, “the sudden escalation of nickel mining activities in Sibuyan unfolded on September 9, 2021, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) lifted its cease and desist order against Altai Philippines Mining Corporation (APMC). By December 29, 2022, a mineral ore export permit had been issued to APMC, allowing it to bulk test 50,000 metric tons of ore.”

However, residents contend that the company failed to secure a barangay clearance, municipal business permit, foreshore lease contract with the DENR (one of the worst and good for nothing government agency of our so-called “republic”), and a permit to construct a private port from the Philippine Ports Authority (another equally good for nothing government instrumentality).

Indeed, continued the good Senator:
“The Senate should hear all stakeholders and unravel the layers of issues that have plagued Sibuyan island for decades. Nakakasira na nga ang malakihang pagmimina sa kalikasan, mukhang may paglabag pa ang kumpanya sa pagsasagawa ng kanilang negosyo. Paulit-ulit ang mga ulat tungkol sa karahasang dulot ng mga mining companies at panahon nang tunay na pakinggan naman ng gubyerno ang hinaing ng komunidad…”

“Matindi ang epekto ng pagmimina sa buhay ng maraming Pilipino, lalo na ng mga indigenous peoples. Yung mga nagmimina, pag nakuha na nila ang gusto nila, lilipat na sila ng ibang lugar. Pero ang mga residente at pati mga apo nila, habambuhay na maninirahan sa Sibuyan Island. Kaya gagawin natin ang lahat upang siguraduhin na mamanahin ng susunod na henerasyon ng Romblon ang matabang lupa at mayabong na likas na yaman,” Hontiveros concluded.

Retired Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, in her stirring Dissenting Opinion then, in the case of La Bugal-B’laan Tribal Assocation, Inc. vs. Ramos, G.R. No. 127882, decided by the Supreme Court on December 1, 2004 stated the following ominous warning:

“Minerals, petroleum and other mineral oils, are part of the non-renewable wealth of the Filipino people. By pursuing large scale exploration, development and utilization of these resources, the State would be allowing the consumption or exhaustion of these resources, and thus deprive future Filipino generations the enjoyment thereof. Mining – especially large-scale mining – often results in the displacement of local residents. Its negative effects on the environment are well-documented.

“Thus, for benefits from the exploration, development and utilization of these resources to be real, they must yield profits over and above 1) the capital and operating costs incurred, 2) the resulting damage to the environment, and 3) the social costs to the people who are immediately and adversely affected thereby.

“Moreover, the State must ensure that the real benefits from the utilization of these resources are sufficient to offset the corresponding loss of these resources to future generations. Real benefits are intergenerational benefits because the motherland’s natural resources are the birthright not only of the present generation of Filipinos but of future generations as well.”

The Doctrine of Intergenerational Responsibility

It is ironic that the same Court who ruled that the Mining Act of 1995 is constitutional is the same Court that says the following remarkable words in the case of Oposa vs Factoran G.R. No. 101083, 224 S.C.R.A. 792 (1993):

“We find no difficulty in ruling that they can, for themselves, for others of their generation and for the succeeding generations, file a class suit. Their personality to sue in behalf of the succeeding generations can only be based on the concept of intergenerational responsibility insofar as the right to a balanced and healthful ecology is concerned. Such a right, as hereinafter expounded, considers the “rhythm and harmony of nature.” Nature means the created world in its entirety. Such rhythm and harmony indispensably include, inter alia, the judicious disposition, utilization, management, renewal and conservation of the country’s forest, mineral, land, waters, fisheries, wildlife, off-shore areas and other natural resources to the end that their exploration, development and utilization be equitably accessible to the present as well as future generations. Needless to say, every generation has a responsibility to the next to preserve that rhythm and harmony for the full enjoyment of a balanced and healthful ecology. Put a little differently, the minors’ assertion of their right to a sound environment constitutes, at the same time, the performance of their obligation to ensure the protection of that right for the generations to come.”

On the Question of Benefit and Consent

It is crystally clear that the people of Sibuyan Island did not want any mining activities to be conducted to their area. It seems to me that they want to maintain the beauty, bliss and serenity of their island. Hence, if that is the organic benefit that they want, then the bloody state must recognize and respect the will of the people.

As per Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution: “Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.”

Again, to quote Madame Justice Carpio-Morales:

“The requirement of real benefit is applicable even when the exploration, development and utilization are being undertaken directly by the Government or with the aid of Filipinos or Filipino corporations. But it takes on greater significance when a foreign entity is involved. In the latter instance, the foreign entity would naturally expect to be compensated for its assistance. In that event, it is inescapable that a foreigner would be benefiting from an activity (i.e. mining) which also results in numerous, serious and long term harmful consequences to the environment and to Philippine society.”

As a citizen of this country, I join our people in this noble fight for the environment. We demand justice for the brave people of Sibuyan Island, we fully support their just struggle and we firmly agreed to the proposed Senate investigate in order for the whole Filipino people to know the whole truth.

Jose Mario De Vega, is an Assistant Professor from the Philosophy and Humanities Department of the College of Education, Arts and Sciences of National University-Manila and a Doctoral student of Philippine Studies (Major in Philosophy) of the Asian Center of the University of the Philippines-Diliman.

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