mining in the Philippines

Suspension of Altai mining ops in Sibuyan welcomed, but ‘fight far from over’

Iya Gozum

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Suspension of Altai mining ops in Sibuyan welcomed, but ‘fight far from over’

Environmentalists from the Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment stage a rally at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources office in Quezon City to demand from the government to put a stop to the mining activities of Altai Philippines Mining Corporation in Sibuyan Island, Romblon, on February 6, 2023.

Jire Carreon/Rappler

Environmentalists, local officials say the fight is ‘far from over' and that the human barricade vs Altai mining ops will continue

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has temporarily stopped mining operations by Altai Philippines Mining Corporation (APMC) in Sibuyan Island, Romblon in light of alleged violations of environmental regulations.

According to an inspection by the DENR-Environmental Management Bureau of Mimaropa last February 1, APMC does not have an environmental compliance certificate for constructing a causeway project. Mimaropa comprises the provinces of Mindoro Occidental, Mindoro Oriental, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan.

The environment department also found that APMC cut down and damaged trees at the exploration site, and was issued a notice of violation on February 3. APMC failed to present a cutting permit. 

In a statement, APMC said it is halting operations and will continue “full cooperation and coordination with the relevant authorities to address any concerns or issues that have been raised.”

Far from over

Although activists and residents opposed to the mining project welcomed the temporary halt, they said the “fight is far from over,” and vowed to continue the human barricade against the project.

The barricade blocking APMC trucks in Brgy. España, San Fernando, Romblon, was put up on January 26, 2023. Environmentalists said APMC failed to show a barangay clearance, municipal business permit, foreshore lease contract from the DENR, and a Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) permit to construct a private port.

“If not for the resistance of the people of Sibuyan, these violations would have never come to light,” said Jon Bonifacio, national coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, during a protest in front of the DENR headquarters in Quezon City, on Monday, February 6. 

They also noted that the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) granted by the DENR to APMC is still in effect.

The Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines (CEC) called for an investigation and the immediate cancellation of the MPSA. 

“We cannot have a leadership content with simply staying on the sidelines,” said Lia Mai Torres, executive director of CEC. 

Yuki Ruado, a 19-year-old resident of Sibuyan and student of Romblon State University-San Fernando Campus who also joined the barricade, said people are still processing the events that transpired in the past days.

“Na-trauma po kami sa mga policemen na supposedly matatakbuhan namin pero [sila] pang gumamit ng pwersa para mapapasok lang ang trucks papasok sa port,” Ruado told Rappler. 

(We experienced trauma after the policemen, who were supposed to help us, used violence against us just to let the trucks pass.)

In an interview with ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo on Monday, February 6, Brgy. España, San Fernando kagawad Jhay Romero said the human barricade with still be there in case APMC’s trucks try to enter the pier to transport samples of nickel ore.

“Haharangan pa rin po namin,” Romero said. “Kasi hahanapan pa po namin ng clearance po sa barangay at saka sa munisipyo. Kasi ang sabi ni Mayor (Nanette Tansingco), wala daw ‘yang mga permit.” 

(We will still block the trucks. We will see if they have a barangay and municipal clearance. Because the Mayor said APMC still doesn’t have permits.)

Meanwhile, Senator Risa Hontiveros filed a resolution on Monday, seeking a probe into the mining activities in Sibuyan Island. 

In a statement, Hontiveros said it is time the government “truly” listen to the concerns of Sibuyanons. 

“’Yung mga nagmimina, pag nakuha na nila ang gusto nila, lilipat na sila ng ibang lugar. Pero ang mga residente at pati mga apo nila, habambuhay na maninirahan sa Sibuyan Island,” Hontiveros said.  

(The miners, after they get what they want, they leave and go to other places. But the residents and their grandchildren are those who will stay in Sibuyan Island for a long time.) 

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Iya Gozum

Iya Gozum covers the environment, agriculture, and science beats for Rappler.