Climate and Environment

Police break up barricade of Sibuyan residents resisting mining ops

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines (Updated 4:42 p.m.) — Two people were hurt after police dispersed a human barricade formed by residents of Sibuyan Island in Romblon in response to the sudden escalation of mining activities there, environmental groups reported Friday.

Videos posted by groups Alyansa Tigil Mina and Living Laudato Si’ showed local police dispersing community members protesting the operations of Altai Philippines Mining Corporation (APMC) on Sibuyan Island.

This allowed three trucks of APMC carrying nickel ore for export to pass through.

“[The police] forced to break up the people who blocked the trucks… We couldn't handle it because we were outnumbered,” Donato Royo, a barangay official who was present during the dispersal, said in Filipino.

Sibuyanons are opposing the extraction of nickel ore on the island, saying it will disrupt Sibuyan’s intact ecosystems, including Mt. Guiting Guiting Natural Park, and the livelihood of locals.

According to the residents, the mining company failed to secure permits at the local level.

“On these grounds, and in the context of years of resistance of Sibuyanons against mining on their island, the people’s barricade is just and legitimate,” Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment said.

Environmentalist Rodne Galicha, a resident of Sibuyan Island, accused the mining firm of conniving with the Philippine National Police and local politicians.

“This act of protecting the mining company is unacceptable knowing that there are violations and deception from the very start they stepped foot on the island,” said Galicha, executive director of non-profit Living Laudato Si'.

Galicha also said choppers carrying military personnel will arrive in Sibuyan.

“The situation here is getting more extreme. We have never experienced something like this here… We are just asserting our right to a clean and sustainable environment,” he added.

Philstar.com sought the comment of the PNP, but it has yet to respond as of posting.

Call for probe

Galicha urged local governments in Romblon to issue a cease and desist against the mining firm, and the House of Representatives and the Senate to conduct a hearing in aid of legislation.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said the upper chamber is “open to any environmental degradation claims that need to be investigated.”

“If there’s a resolution filed, we can do that,” Zubiri said on the sidelines of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ multi-stakeholder forum in Cagayan De Oro City on Friday.

DENR Secretary Toni Yulo-Loyzaga on Thursday said the agency “will take a good look” at the issue of mining on the island.

But Elizabeth Ibañez, coordinator of environmental group Sibuyanons Against Mining, said they want authorities to go beyond investigating the situation on their island.

"Sibuyanons are sick of promises. Our mountains are being destroyed, but they’re still conducting investigations," she said in Filipino.

Even after today’s incidents, residents continue to stood their ground.  They will continue to form a barricade to prevent six more trucks carrying nickel ore from leaving the island.



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