Eastern Samar residents protest nickel hauling in Manicani Island
TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines – Concerned citizens in Eastern Samar are demanding an end to all forms of mining-related activities in Manicani Island in Guiuan, including the continued hauling of the nickel ore stockpile of a company that ceased mining operations in 2011.
Residents of Manicani Island, joined by the Alyansa Tigil Mina and other support groups, held a protest rally on Wednesday, June 8, urging the government to keep the Hinatuan Mining Corporation (HMC) – a subsidiary of Nickel Asia – to stop hauling nickel ore out of the island.
Manicani Island is a part of the Guiuan Bay Protected Landscape and Seascape under Presidential Proclamation No. 469. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) granted a license to HMC to mine nickel in the island, but ordered it to stop operations in 2011 due to environmental concerns.
In 2014, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) regional director Leo Jasareno wrote a letter to Nickel Asia chairman Manuel Zamora, allowing the HMC to dispose of the nickel ore stockpile in Manicani Island "in order to mitigate risks."
The presence of such a stockpile carries the risk of polluting surrounding waters, especially when there are heavy rains that can wash away the minerals into the sea.
Concerned citizens noted that the hauling of the nickel ore stockpile continued in June 2015, then continued again on May 15, 2016.
On May 17, Nonita Caguioa, MGB's Regional Director for Region VIII, gave an Ore Transport Permit (OTP) to the HMC, allowing the shipment of 62,000 metric tons of nickel ore to China, also sourced from the existing stockpile.
Caguioa said the OTP was issued based on an Authority to Dispose of Nickel Ore Stockpile from the MGB Central Office, dated July 1, 2014.
"We want to remove any possible danger and we want people to be safe," she said.
The buyer of the nickel ore was the Union Wave Holding Company, based in the British Virgin Islands.
Caguioa also said the HMC has a pending application with the MGB for another transport permit, covering an additional 62,000 metric tons of nickel ore for shipment.
Because of this, Manicani residents barricaded the boundary of the stockpile, demanding a cessation of the operations. The Save Manicani Movement (SAMAMO) believes the 2011 suspension of HMC's mining operations should also cover nickel ore transport and shipment operations.
"Gin guguba nira an amon mahusay nga isla, dara han ira sobra nga panginahanglan hiton nickel (They are destroying our beautiful small island, because of their insatiable need for nickel)," explained SAMAMO president Marcial Sumooc.
Despite the temporary cessation of operations, there is already environmental damage to the island, with an increase of sediment impacting the coral habitat. Road construction has also disturbed the wildlife and destroyed some natural habitats.
Residents have called on President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to stop all mining operations in Manicani Island. – Rappler.com