Residents of the island of Sibuyan in the province of Romblon held a protest march that they dubbed “Walk for God’s Creation” at the main office of the Environment department in Manila on Tuesday, July 26.
In a statement, the anti-mining activist group Alyansa Tigil Mina expressed support for the “prayerful gathering” and march.
Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of the alliance, said Sibuyan is known for its rich biodiversity and flora and fauna, “which are all being threatened by mining operations.”
“If mining proceeds in Sibuyan, the livelihoods of the residents will be affected because their work relies on the sea, the rice fields, and their coconut farms,” said Donato Rada Royo, a member of the town council.
“We call for immediate action to stop large scale mining in Sibuyan because many are against it,” added Sibuyan resident Elizabeth Ibanez. She said mining “will kill life” and the livelihood of the people.
Earlier, religious leaders in the province of Romblon called on local government officials “to make a strong position against mining … as stewards of creation and servant-leaders.”
“Listen to your people. Choose life for ‘choosing life means making sacrifices and self-restraint,’” read a statement released early this month by the Romblon Ecumenical Forum Against Mining, a group of Catholic and Protestant religious leaders.
“We advise you to reflect on what Romans 8.22-23 says: ‘We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that … we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies,’” it added.
The religious leaders reminded local officials that the concept of stewardship “presents a vital starting-point for social, economic and environmental sustainability.”
“We are cautioned against adopting short term and seemingly inexpensive options of building on sand, instead of building on rock for our common home to withstand storms,” added the statement.
Catholic Bishop Narciso Abellana of Romblon called on the public to unite against the proposed mining project on Sibuyan Island.
“Nature gives life, so we must love, serve, and defend it because it is our life,” said the prelate in a homily during Mass on July 12, “Without nature, there is no life,” he added.
“Is mining responsible? Is there responsible mining?” said the prelate.
Rodne Galicha of the group Bayay Sibuyanon Inc. said communities must “collectively act to oppose and stop industries that put our lives and the integrity of ecosystems at risk.”
Galicia, who also signed the joint statement, said it is “the human family’s moral and spiritual duty to resist a system that undermines human dignity and ecological balance.”
“Who will speak for the thousands of trees now in danger to be cut and the voiceless flora and fauna? Who will speak for the mountains to be skinned and wounded?” he said.
The group Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) also expressed solidarity with the people of Sibuyan as they campaign to generate support against mining on the island.
“Government and mining companies should take heed of the sentiments of the people and not force unwanted mining operations in the island,” said Jaybee Garganera, ATM national coordinator.
ATM, a coalition of around 100 organizations nationwide, lamented that “mining has again become active” since the lifting of the moratorium in 2021.
It reported that Altai Philippines Mining Inc. resumed its mining activities in the province and has been going around communities to convince residents of the supposed benefits of mining.