MANILA, Philippines – Altai Philippines Mining Corporation (APMC) said in a statement Friday, February 10, it had the necessary permit to extract and transport samples of nickel ore in Sibuyan Island, Romblon.
APMC said in its statement emailed to the media, that because it had a valid mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA), “ALTAI has been authorized by the DENR and other regulatory agencies to explore, transport and ship ore samples.”
“ALTAI cares about Sibuyan Island in general and the Sibuyanons in particular. The entire Sibuyan island, all 44,500 hectares should be inspected objectively by competent authorities,” said the mining company.
A Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) statement on February 8, enumerated the violations committed by APMC and ordered a stop to its mining operations in Sibuyan, specifically the construction of a causeway and transport of ore.
As investigations were ongoing, APMC appealed for due process, claiming it has been “maligned, unfairly judged, and prevented from performing its lawful activities.”
APMC said its MPSA with the DENR was granted in 2009, and it was only “peacefully exercising its rights under the MPSA.”
Because it has an agreement, APMC said it has the “the exclusive right to conduct mining operations and to extract all mineral resources found in the contract area,” as stated in the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.
While the company defends its rights under the MPSA, environmentalists and residents were demanding APMC show barangay clearance, municipal business permit, foreshore lease contract from the DENR, and a permit from Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) to construct a private port.
Since January, protesters have formed a human barricade in Sitio Bato, Barangay España, San Fernando, to stop the transport of ore. The barricade continues despite a brief scuffle when the police dispersed protesters to let mining trucks pass through.
According to Senator Risa Hontiveros, who recently proposed a Senate probe into the issue and visited the barricade last February 9, mining operations were still ongoing.
“I saw it myself,” said Hontiveros in an interview in ANC’s Headstart on February 13. “They still are conducting movements inside. Nakuhanan namin ng video at ayon sa mga residente ‘yung exploration nila is ongoing pa rin.” (We captured it on video and according to the residents, exploration activities are still ongoing.)
In its statement with the heading “We are not the enemy,” APMC said, “ALTAI is a legitimate private business entity that has quietly worked to uplift lives in Sibuyan. ALTAI is not owned, controlled or ran by any political personalities.”
In the website though of Wellex Industries Incorporated, the profile of its president Kenneth Gatchalian showed he was also among the directors of ALTAI. Kenneth is part of the Gatchalian clan of Valenzuela City. His brothers are Senator Sherwin, former Valenzuela congressman now Social Welfare and Development secretary Rex, and Weslie, the incumbent Valenzuela mayor.
Rappler has reached out to APMC to clarify whether mining operations were still continuing, but it has yet to respond as of posting. Rappler will update this story upon getting APMC’s side.
The DENR only suspended construction of the causeway and permit to transport ore. APMC’s exploration permit, renewed last July 2022, and its MPSA, are still valid and in effect. – Rappler.com
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