At least two anti-mining protesters were hurt on Friday, February 3, after police tried to break a barricade set up by residents to prevent a mining company from operating in Sibuyan in the province of Romblon.
Rodne Galicha, executive director of Living Laudato Si Philippines, said the commotion started after police prevented residents from blocking trucks that tried to enter a private port on the island.
“This act of protecting the mining company is unacceptable, knowing that there are violations and deception from the very start,” said Galicha in a statement.
He called on authorities to issue a “cease and desist order” under the general welfare clause of the Local Government Code and on Congress and the Commission on Human Rights to conduct an investigation.
On Thursday, residents succeeded in blocking a truck that tried to push its way through the barricades.
Elizabeth Ibanez, coordinator of the group Sibuyanons Against Mining, said the protesters were surprised that the mining company attempted to force their way through the barricades.
“We are also aghast that the police were helping the truck that was transporting nickel ore,” she said.
Galicha said “the people will continue to stand their ground and prevent the trucks from passing through.”
“We will continue our barricade because the mining company has no permits and social license,” he said.
Jaybee Garganera, coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina, condemned the incident as he expressed “solidarity with the residents of Sibuyan and fully support their fight for the preservation of their island.”
On Wednesday, Bishop Narciso Abellana of Romblon expressed his support for the residents of Sibuyan who have since set up a barricade to prevent the operation of a mining company on the island.
The prelate visited the protesters who were blocking the entry of trucks to the mining site at Sitio Bato, a village in the island’s town of San Fernando, since January 29.
Environmental groups claimed that the mining company failed to secure the necessary mining permits and documents to continue its operations.
In a statement, the Catholic clergy of Sibuyan warned of “tragic consequences” if the nickel mining project pushed through on the island, often referred to as the “Galapagos of Asia” because of its rich biodiversity.
“Unchecked human activity will have its tragic consequences, running the risk of destroying nature, thus running the risk of destroying humanity,” read the priests’ statement.
“Land is life. Water is life. We only have one world to live in. Let us protect the environment! Let us protect nature! No to mining!” it added.
The Romblon Diocesan Council of the Laity also issued a statement earlier on Sunday deploring the continuous attempts of the mining company to operate on the island.
The lay organization also criticized the government for “turning a deaf ear” and for allowing the company “to reach our soil” despite strong public opposition.
“Together with all the people of good will in the diocese who cry out against mining, we cry with one voice, stop mining in Sibuyan,” read the group’s statement.
“As an expression of solidarity, we appeal to all the faithful to storm the heavens with our prayers, and provide every possible support to the people of Sibuyan who struggle for justice,” added the lay organization.
A coalition of environmentalist groups earlier called on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to immediately order Altai Philippines Mining Corporation to stop its operations in Sibuyan.
The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) also called for an investigation into the reported issuance of permits to the company by the Mining and Geosciences Bureau.
Kalikasan PNE questioned why a permit had been reportedly granted to the mining company, which is still in the exploration stage of its operations.
Under the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, mineral ore export permits are only granted for the export of small amounts of minerals during the exploration stage for testing.
However, Altai Mining was reportedly permitted to ship 50,000 metric tons of nickel ore from Sibuyan, “an alarming amount of ore” according to the group.
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.
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