mining in the Philippines

TIMELINE: Sibuyan Island’s decades of opposition to mining

Iya Gozum

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TIMELINE: Sibuyan Island’s decades of opposition to mining

AGAINST MINING. Sibuyanons form a human barricade to stop mining trucks.

Alyansa Tigil Mina

The many attempts to mine their island are already entrenched in the history of Sibuyanons. Locals continue to fight back.

MANILA, Philippines – Residents of Sibuyan in Romblon have been fighting for almost two decades to stop mining exploration on their island.

Locals are adamant to protect Sibuyan not only because it is their home, but also because it is a biodiversity hot spot hailed as the “Galapagos of Asia.”

A significant player in the opposition against mining companies is the local government unit. For many years, barangays and municipalities have actively opposed these projects.

Recently, the municipalities of San Fernando, Cajidiocan, and Magdiwang, called on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to declare Sibuyan mining-free.

Here’s a timeline of Sibuyan’s history with mining companies looking to extract nickel, chromite, cobalt, and iron from the island.

These are information collated from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Mines and Geosciences Bureau (DENR-MGB) in Mimaropa, legal documents such as barangay and municipal resolutions, court decisions, Altai Philippines Mining Corporation’s project description for public scoping, past media reports, and advocates’ documentation.

June 23, 1972

The government awards lease contract to Sta. Barbara Development Corporation (STABADECO) to conduct mining exploration in Sibuyan. This contract will allow STABADECO to explore and develop the area for a certain amount of time.

February 20, 1996

Former Philippine president Fidel V. Ramos declares Mt. Guiting-Guiting, a mountain located in Sibuyan, as a national park. This affects a huge part of the area stated in the lease contract.

March 19, 1996

STABADECO and Altai Philippines Mining Corporation (APMC) sign a deed of assignment. STABADECO effectively transfers the lease contract to APMC. APMC pursues application for a mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA).

According to the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, an MPSA is “an agreement where the government grants to the contractor the exclusive right to conduct mining operations within a contract area and shares in the gross output. The contractor shall provide the financing, technology, management and personnel necessary for the implementation of this agreement.”

May 21, 1996

APMC applies for an MPSA.

November 28, 2005

Barangay Taclobo in San Fernando endorses mining projects in their area, saying in a resolution that it supports “responsible mineral resource exploration, development, and utilization,” and believes that these will create jobs for residents.

May 15, 2006

San Fernando releases a resolution authorizing former town mayor Dindo Rios to “stop the ongoing drilling activities of the Sunpacific Resources Philippines, Inc. at Barangay Taclobo.”

June 14, 2006

San Fernando releases a resolution authorizing former vice mayor Jefferlin Fabella to block the two-year, small-scale mining permit issued to All Acacia Resources Inc. by filing an omnibus petition for certiorari with prayer for a temporary restraining order and injunction with the Regional Trial Court.

July 5, 2006

Rios orders San Fernando police to stop the mining exploration activities of All Acacia Resources Inc.

August 10, 2006

Barangay España in San Fernando endorses the nickel mining application of APMC.

August 14, 2006

Barangay Taclobo disowns and declares null and void its past resolution endorsing mining projects in their area.

August 24, 2007

Former environment secretary Angelo Reyes approves five special cutting permits to clear forests and give way to mining activities in Sibuyan. About 69,709 trees are estimated to be cut down.

Anti-mining coalition Alyansa Tigil Muna questions the “midnight approval” and says this would cause deforestation in the buffer zone of the Mt. Guiting-Guiting National Park.

October 3, 2007

Armin Marin, a local municipal councilor, is shot dead during a picket attended by anti-mining advocates in Sitio Olango in Barangay España.

The alleged culprit is a security officer of Sibuyan Nickel Properties Development Corporation (SNPDC).

According to a Senate resolution ordering an inquiry into the killing of Marin, SNPDC is a consortium of mining companies with interests in the island. This includes Altai Mining, Sun Pacific, All Acacia Resources, San Roque Mining, Pelican Resources, and BHP Billiton of Australia.

December 23, 2009

The government grants APMC an MPSA, signed by former environment secretary Lito Atienza, to conduct mining exploration, development, and utilization of nickel, iron, cobalt, and chromite in San Fernando.

September 7, 2010

APMC transfers rights to SNPDC.

September 13, 2011

Rios files a complaint against APMC. In his complaint, Rios says mining operations “severely endanger the rivers and streams of Sibuyan.”

September 19, 2011

The DENR-MGB issues a cease and desist order to APMC. APMC’s permit to explore is suspended in light of Rios’ complaint.

February 15, 2012

An anti-mining monument is unveiled. Former Romblon governor Eduardo Firmalo says the monument commemorates the people’s unity against these projects.

“Metallic mining has no room in the province,” Firmalo says.

May 23, 2012

Mario Kingo, the suspect in the killing of anti-mining activist Armin Marin, is acquitted. According to an Inquirer report, Kingo is sentenced for negligence and imprudence but is cleared of murder charges.

August 14, 2017

Two other mining companies, Maxwell International Holdings Berhad and Global Mining and Agricultural Ventures Corporation, sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to extract nickel ore in San Fernando, Romblon.

November 29, 2017

Maxwell terminates the MOU with Global Mining and Agricultural Ventures Corporation.

Maxwell reasons that the latter “did not fully disclose information and issues relating to Sibuyan Nickel Properties Development Corporation, which holds the rights for mining and extraction of nickel ores on two parcels of land with total area of approximately 1,580 hectares in an area located at Barangays España and Taclobo, Municipality of San Fernando, Sibuyan Island, Province of Romblon, Philippines.”

September 9, 2021

The DENR lifts its cease and desist order against APMC.

May 27, 2022

Residents disrupt an information and education campaign, an initiative necessary for APMC to obtain an environmental compliance certificate. 

May 30, 2022

Barangay Taclobo opposes the impending continuation of mining exploration in their area.

June 6, 2022

San Fernando calls on then-president Rodrigo Duterte, incoming president Ferdinand Marcos Jr., and Congress “to declare Sibuyan Island free from metallic mining and revoke all mining permits and applications in Sibuyan Island.”

June 20, 2022

Barangay España, San Fernando, declares itself a mining-free village.

July 12, 2022

The DENR-MGB renews APMC’s exploration permit under MPSA No. 304-2009-IVB.

APMC’s exploration work program and environmental work program are approved by the DENR. In their project description, APMC estimates a minimum of 25 years to complete the mining project.

July 26, 2022

Anti-mining advocates march outside the DENR headquarters in Quezon City to protest mining activities in Romblon. This comes two days after the renewal of APMC’s exploration permit.

July 28, 2022

The towns of San Fernando, Cajidiocan, and Magdiwang request President Marcos and Congress to declare Sibuyan mining-free.

The three municipalities of Sibuyan Island also call on DENR Secretary Ma. Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga to “immediately review, halt, revoke, and reject all mining agreements, operations, and applications within the territorial jurisdiction.”

December 29, 2022

The DENR-MGB Central Office issues a mineral ore export permit to APMC. This permit allows APMC to bulk test 50,000 metric tons of ore.

January 19, 2023

APMC organizes a public scoping, a requirement under the Philippine Environmental Impact Statement System.

January 26, 2023

Anti-mining groups and residents form a human barricade to stop mining trucks containing nickel ore.

February 3, 2023

Videos from the ground show three mining trucks successfully passing through as police disperse the residents and advocates’ human barricade. Two are reportedly injured following the dispersal. –

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Iya Gozum

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