Sibuyan folk join forces, form human wall to halt mining work
MANILA, Philippines — In a show of strength and solidarity, residents of Sibuyan Island, Romblon have set up a human barricade to stop what they firmly believe to be illegal mining operations in the area, according to the Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) on Wednesday.
Residents of the area have held steadfast in their stand to prevent a mining truck from crossing the barricade they set up as early as Sunday. After a confrontation with the local police on Wednesday, their efforts paid off and the mining truck was unable to pass.
“Sibuyan residents succeeded in blocking a truck that tried to push its way through the barricades as they stood firm in demanding the suspension of the operations of Altai Philippines Mining Company,” said the ATM in a statement.
On Tuesday evening, the police swept the area, armed to the teeth with batons and protective gear. The locals were alarmed, and a barangay official came forward to challenge the police and demand an explanation for their presence.
“The police could not even produce a written order, despite claiming that they were ordered to go to the barricades supposedly to maintain peace and order. But, there is no need for them to come as the residents are protesting peacefully. Besides, why were they in full protective gear? They even brought batons, seemingly wanting to provoke some sort of trouble,” barangay official Donato Royo said in the statement.
Jaybee Garganera, the ATM National Coordinator, said that the police were deployed to scare off protesters.
“We are wary of any form of harassment by the police. They should be reminded that their duty is to respect and protect the right of the people of Sibuyan to peaceful assembly, especially in this case where the mining company is in violation of the law,” he said.
The people of Sibuyan Island have demanded to see the mining company’s barangay clearance, municipal business permit, foreshore lease contract with the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and port authority permit.
“So far, the mining company has failed to show them any of these documents,” said the group.
Another group called upon the DENR and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to investigate the mining operations.
“We demand swift action from the local governments of the province and municipalities, and the pertinent government agencies such as the DENR and BFAR to stop the mining operations of the company and hold them accountable for their illegal activities,” said Elizabeth Ibañez, the coordinator of Sibuyanons Against Mining.
Mining operations had sparked concerns in the area before. Back in 2011, the DENR canceled the Altai Philippines Mining Company’s permit to explore Sibuyan Island after the then-mayor of San Fernando, Sibuyan Dindo Rios, filed a complaint.
Meanwhile, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno previously said that the mining industry plays a role in the country’s economic recovery, even stating that the earnings of the mining industry can be used to help bankroll the proposed Maharlika Investment Fund.
INQUIRER.net has reached out to the DENR for a comment, to which the agency said that the writer’s query has been forwarded to the concerned office.
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