Residents of Sibuyan island in Romblon who have been protesting mining operations in their community questioned the presence of police personnel at the barricades that the people have put up early this week.
“The police’s mere presence is meant to intimidate the Sibuyan residents, who are simply making their voices heard as they fight for the preservation of their island’s natural resources and ecosystems,” said Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina.
Garganera said in a statement that the protesters are “wary of any form of harassment by the police,” adding that “their duty is to respect and protect the right of the people of Sibuyan to peaceful assembly.”
The protesters reported that a number of policemen bearing batons and protective equipment arrived Tuesday evening at the barricades of anti-mining protesters.
“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,” said village leader Donato Royo of Barangay España.
Royo said there is no need for the police to come because the residents were protesting peacefully.
“Besides, why were they in full protective gear? They even brought batons, seemingly wanting to provoke some sort of trouble,” said the village official.
Residents of Sibuyan have been protesting for nearly a week already, demanding for the suspension of the operations of Altai Mining Company.
The protesters claimed that the mining company’s activities are “illegal” for lack of the necessary documents to operate, such as a barangay clearance, municipal business permit, foreshore lease contract from the Environment department, and a permit from the Philippine Ports Authority to construct a private port.
The residents started the barricade on January 28, using tricycles and motorcycles to prevent company trucks from transporting nickel ore.
The Sangguniang Bayan of San Fernando, Cajidiocan and Magdiwang in Romblon have issued a joint resolution in June 2022 “strongly opposing metallic large-scale mining in Sibuyan Island.”
They requested President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and the Philippine Congress to declare Sibuyan island free from large-scale metallic mining.
They also called on Environment Secretary Ma. Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga to immediately “review, halt, revoke and reject all mining agreements, operation, and applications within the territorial jurisdiction.”
Sibuyan Island has been said to be one of the most unspoiled ecosystems in the Philippines and the world.