MANILA, Philippines?(UPDATE) Twenty five Mindoreños, mostly members of the indigenous Mangyan community, on Tuesday launched a hunger strike to call for the immediate revocation of a mining clearance issued by Environment Secretary Lito Atienza to a Norwegian nickel mine on Mindoro island.
With two Catholic priests joining, the 25 members of the Alyansa Laban sa Mina (ALAMIN, Alliance Against Mining) vowed to go on an indefinite hunger strike until Atienza revokes the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) issued to Intex Resources.
Alamin spokesman Fr. Edwin Gariguez said the protest was meant to express their ?strongest denunciation of the DENR?s action in issuing the ECC to Intex Resources despite of the overwhelming opposition from the mining affected communities, Catholic Church groups, civil society organizations and the local governments of Oriental and Occidental Mindoro.?
The national anti-mining network Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM, Alliance to Stop Mining) has called for Atienza?s ouster, saying the former Manila mayor committed ?dreadful acts? in issuing the ECC on October 14.
Jaybee Garganera, ATM national coordinator, said in an interview that the ECC was issued to the Norwegian firm without proper consultations with the local government units in both Occidental and Oriental Mindoro, violating Sections 26 and 27 of the Local Government Code of 1991.
Oriental Mindoro has ordered a 25-year ban on large-scale mining in the province while 22 villages and the Sangguniang Bayan (Municipal Council) of Sablayan in Occidental Mindoro have issued resolutions opposing the project.
Section 27 of the Local Government Code states, ?No project or program shall be implemented by government authorities unless the consultations?are complied with, and prior approval of the sanggunian concerned is obtained: Provided, that occupants in areas where such projects are to be implemented shall not be evicted unless appropriate relocation sites have been provided, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.?
Occidental Mindoro?s Abra de Ilog town mayor Eric Constantino said that the DENR failed to consult with local government units in both Mindoro provinces before it granted the ECC.
Constantino said that mining explorations in Mindoro would be detrimental not only to the island?s ecology but also to the livelihood of the residents.
Among those that would be adversely affected by the mining exploration include a vital watershed, the habitat of the already endangered Tamaraw (Mindoro dwarf buffalo) that is endemic only to the island, as well as agriculture and fishery resources in the two provinces, he said.
At the same time, mining exploration would encroach on the ancestral domain of the Mangyans, Constantino said.
Gariguez said the Mag-asawang Watershed, a main source of irrigation in Oriental Mindoro supplying water to more than 50,000 hectare of rice fields in the towns of Victoria and Naujan as well as in Calapan City, is within the mining site.
?The mine-site is a major biodiversity conservation area,? he said.