Appeal to stop mining firm’s activities in Sibuyan junked

Daphne Galvez - The Philippine Star
Appeal to stop mining firm�s activities in Sibuyan junked
This photo shows the facade of the Court of Appeals.
Philstar.com / EC Toledo

MANILA, Philippines — The Court of Appeals (CA) has dismissed a plea filed by residents of Romblon to stop the operation of a mining company on Sibuyan Island.

In a 33-page ruling, the CA’s Sixth Division denied the petition for a writ of kalikasan filed by members of the Bantay Kalikasan ng Sibuyan.

The petitioners sought to stop the Altai Philippines Mining Corp. (APMC), a nickel mining company, from allegedly destroying the natural resources in the protected area.

A writ of kalikasan is a legal remedy for people or organizations whose constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology is violated or threatened.

In denying the petition, the appellate court said the petition had jurisdictional and procedural flaws, and failed to prove the need for the issuance of a protective writ.

It said the petitioners failed to show that the area to be affected was large enough to justify the writ.

The CA said the petitioners failed to prove that APMC’s exploration and transport of nickel ore could prejudice the life, health and property of two or more cities or provinces, which is required under the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases.

The CA said the perceived environmental damage arising from APMC’s activities could affect only the island province of Romblon.

The court reprimanded the petitioners for resorting to forum shopping as they also filed a similar complaint against APMC before the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in January 2023.

The petitioners failed to exhaust administrative remedies before going to court to file the writ of kalikasan petition, the CA said.

“A writ of kalikasan cannot and should not be used as a substitute for other remedies that are available to the parties, whether legal, administrative, or political. Mere concern for the environment is not an excuse to invoke this court’s jurisdiction in cases wherein other remedies are available,” the CA said.

Although it rejected the petition, the appellate court said it was not turning a blind eye on environmental concerns on Sibuyan Island.

The CA directed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the MGB to resolve “with dispatch” the complaint filed against the firm.

The decision, which was promulgated on May 14, was penned by Associate Justice Eduardo Ramos Jr. and concurred in by Associate Justices Edwin Sorongon and Ruben Reynaldo Roxas.

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