DENR cancels permit to explore for nickel on Sibuyan Island
MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has cancelled the permit given to Altai Philippine Mining Corp. to explore Sibuyan Island in Romblon, heeding the petition of the town mayor who said it would disrupt the island’s biodiversity and the community’s livelihood.
Leo Jasareno, director of DENR-Mines and Geosciences Bureau, said he has issued a cease-and-decease order against the company, which is exploring the island’s mineral reserves. Altai Mining is a joint venture between Canadian and Philippine firms.
The company was given permit to explore for nickel in 1,580 hectares at the foot of Mt. Guiting-Guiting. The permit to the company was signed by former Environment Secretary Lito Atienza in Dec. 23, 2009, the MGB said.
Jasareno said the cancellation of the permit was based on the complaint of San Fernando, Sibuyan town mayor Dindo Rios, who said the exploration activities pose a “grave threat to the rivers, streams, and tourism of Sibuyan Island.”
“Sibuyan is home to Mt. Guiting-Guiting Natural Park, which hosts one of the highest diversities of species in the world,” Jasareno said.
There was also a petition of the influential Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines to review the mining operations on the island, the DENR official said.
In an interview Tuesday, Rios welcomed the CDO and would enforce it immediately.
He said the company’s permit was a “midnight deal,” having been signed by Atienza less than a month before the ban on contract signings before the May 2010 elections.
He explained that Altai has been drilling the area to evaluate the mineral reserves on the island.
Rios feared that the wastes from the mining activities would contaminate their water. Most of the residents of the town are fishermen, he said.
Mining activities conducted by another company has contaminated the water of another town with mercury. “We don’t want that to happen here,” he said.
Sibuyan Island, regarded as Asia’s equivalent of the Galapagos by both local and foreign scientists, is one of the richest sites in the world in terms of plant and animal density and diversity and endemism.
Old growth forest covers about 26 percent of Sibuyan’s land area, which is about 46,340 hectares.
Its forests are so dense that the National Museum has identified in a single hectare 1,551 trees comprising 123 species, of which 54 are endemic, meaning they can be found nowhere else in the world.
Because Sibuyan was isolated from the rest of the Philippine archipelago, its plants and animals evolved differently from the species in other areas.
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