Catholic priests in the Diocese of Rombon added their voices to the growing chorus of opposition to the proposed large-scale nickel mining project in Sibuyan Island.
Speaking during Mass Tuesday, June 28, at the end of a five-day march against mining, Father Julius Ambulo said the diocese is committed to save the island from environmental despoliation.
“We are one with you in shouting ‘no to mining,’” said Father Ambulo, who is also the diocesan youth director of Romblon, at San Fernando town plaza.
To further demonstrate their solidarity with anti-mining residents and advocates, he revealed that their clergy meeting will be held in the town next month.
He said Bishop Narciso Abellana of Romblon will lead the meeting in the second week of July.
“This is our way of showing why we priests are against mining,” Ambulo added.
Dubbed as “Baktas Talakayan,” the march was aimed to protest the mining project in Sibuyan, often referred to as the “Galapagos of Asia” because of its unique and pristine remoteness from all the mainlands.
In 2007, a security officer of Sibuyan Nickel Properties Development Corp. shot to death councilor and environmental advocate Armin Marin during a rally.
The incident triggered more protests that resulted in the suspension of the company’s mining permit in 2011 due to lack of social acceptability.
In 2017, former environment secretary, the late Gina Lopez, ordered a ban on open-pit mining in the country.
The agency under the leadership of secretary Roy Cimatu, however, reversed Lopez’s order in 2021 to boost state revenue and prop up the pandemic-hit economy.
The Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), a coalition of around 100 organizations nationwide, lamented that “mining has again become active in the island” since then.
It reported that Altai Philippines Mining Inc. also resumed its mining activities and has been going around communities to convince residents of the supposed benefits of mining.