Climate and Environment

Sibuyan folk fear nickel mining will destroy 'Galapagos of Asia'

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Sibuyan folk fear nickel mining will destroy 'Galapagos of Asia'
Residents of Sibuyan Island put up a barricade to protest the mining exploration activities in the area.
Twitter/Rodne Galicha

MANILA, Philippines — Residents of Sibuyan Island in Romblon are calling for a suspension of mining exploration activities there, saying the extraction of nickel ore will disrupt the island’s intact ecosystems as well as local livelihoods. 

Sibuyanons urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to suspend the mining operations of Altai Philippines Mining Corporation (APMC) on the island, which is home to unique flora and fauna. 

Sibuyan Island has been called the "Galápagos of Asia" because it is isolated from the Philippine archipelago. The volcanic islands of Galápagos, which lie 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, are famous for a wealth of unique plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. 

"We are seeing that our island is being destroyed, but no one is responding. There is still no positive action being taken by the concerned government agencies," Elizabeth Ibañez, coordinator of Sibuyanons Against Mining, told Philstar.com in a phone interview. 

"Almost 100% of the people on Sibuyan Island, especially in Barangays España and Taclobo [in the town of San Fernando], do not want the mine because it will destroy the environment and affect livelihoods," she added. 

The proposed project of Gatchalian-led APMC will be located in Barangays España and Taclobo. Both villages will house mine pits, and support facilities such as causeway, stockyards or pieryards, waste dumps, and settling ponds, according to the project description for scoping.

According to Ibañez, the locations of the proposed project are "highly susceptible" to landslides. 


Residents of Sibuyan Island set up a barricade in front of the pier being constructed by APMC to stop the firm’s mining exploration activities. 

Ibañez said the residents are demanding the mining company to produce barangay clearance, municipal business permit, DENR foreshore lease contract, and permit from the Philippine Ports Authority to construct a private port. She claimed the firm could not present these documents. 

Sibuyan environmentalist Rodne Galicha, executive director of non-profit Living Laudato Si, reported last week the presence of a bulk carrier that will allegedly transport 50,000 metric tons of nickel ore. Ibañez said the hauling activity will damage the spawning ground of fish. 

In a letter to Philstar.com, Mines and Geosciences Bureau MIMAROPA regional director Glenn Marcelo Noble said a mineral ore export permit was issued to APMC "for bulk testing purposes per its approved exploration work program."

He added the MOEP was requested by the mining firm under its MPSA "to ship out [its] sample ore to a reliable direct shipping ore pyro-plant and testing company in order to complete the necessary metallurgical study."

In December 2009, a mineral production sharing agreement was executed by APMC and then-environment chief Lito Atienza, giving it the right to mine within the contract area.

"Environmental concerns shall be addressed through the approved environmental work program and the performance bond, as well as monitoring by this office," Noble said. 

A public scoping activity was conducted on January 19. The activity is part of the requirements of the Philippine Environmental Impact Statement System in relation to APMC’s application for an environmental compliance certificate. 

The town councils of San Fernando, Cajidiocan and Magdiwang in Romblon had already issued a joint resolution in June "strongly opposing metallic large-scale mining in Sibuyan Island."

They also appealed to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Congress to declare Sibuyan island free from large-scale metallic mining.

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