DENR cites mining firm for violations on Sibuyan Island
CITY OF CALAPAN, Oriental Mindoro, Philippines — A mining firm, whose operations on Sibuyan Island are being protested by residents, has been cited by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for violations, including building a causeway without an environmental clearance and cutting trees without a permit.
In notices served on Saturday by DENR personnel from Romblon province, Altai Philippines Mining Corp. (APMC) was found to be “constructing/operating a causeway project without an approved environmental compliance certificate” and was directed to attend a technical conference at the DENR central office in Manila on Feb. 7.
According to DENR-Mimaropa Regional Director Joe Amil, “failure to attend and submit required position shall be considered as a waiver of the right to be heard and present evidence on their behalf.”
The other violation notice signed by Arnoldo Blaza Jr., the officer in charge of the Romblon Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office, ordered the firm to explain within 10 days why it should not be fined for violating the Forestry Code for cutting and clearing trees without a permit.
Earlier, a dialogue was held among officials of the DENR, other government agencies, local government, and environmental groups protesting the APMC’s allegedly illegal operations on Sibuyan Island. This was after two antimining protesters barricading the port of the mining firm in San Fernando town were hurt in a clash with police on Friday.
The protesters had formed a human barricade to stop three of APMC’s hauling trucks that were carrying nickel ore from leaving the port. However, the trucks forced their way through while about 30 policemen intervened and tried to break up the barricade.
Elizabeth Ibañez, coordinator of Sibuyanon Against Mining, said “the outcome of the dialogue could be considered a small victory for the protesters who did not waver in their [resistance] at the barricades and who persisted in demanding that the illegal activities of APMC stop.”
For protest leader Rodne Galicha, “all these victories happened mainly because of the continued protests, barricade, action and expressions of Sibuyanons.”
Rights and environmental groups, however, demanded accountability for the police dispersal and asked the government to respect the stand of residents.
“We demand an immediate investigation of the authorities involved in the violent dispersal. The people of Romblon must be allowed to freely exercise their right to protect the environment and defend their island from destruction,” said Cleng Julve, campaigns officer for scientist group Agham.
Jae Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina, said the police should have ensured a “peaceful protest and respected the position of the Sibuyan people against the mining company.”
Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said the Sibuyanons had resisted for decades the entry and operations of mining companies on the island, wary that further mining would destroy their community and undermine their livelihood.
Last year, despite a plea from residents in the towns of San Fernando, Cajidiocan and Magdiwang to declare Sibuyan mining-free, the government issued a mineral ore export permit to APMC in December, allowing the company to bulk test 50,000 metric tons of ore.
“Such brazen disregard for the will of the Sibuyanons comes as no surprise,” Palabay said.
Environmental group Kalikasan PNE also urged the government to “categorically revoke” the mineral production sharing agreement given to the APMC, “in light of its clear human rights violations and the lack of social license.”
“We also call for a moratorium on all mining operations in Sibuyan, and in all other watersheds and key biodiversity areas in the Philippines,” Kalikasan said.
—WITH REPORTS FROM JANE BAUTISTA AND KRIXIA SUBINGSUBING
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