Mindoreños rejoice over revocation of Intex’s ECC

The Mindoro hunger strikers return to a hero's welcome in the Oriental Mindoro capital of Calapan City. Photos by Ma Nanette Montellano Geronimo

CALAPAN CITY, Oriental Mindoro—Local residents warmly welcomed at the Port of Calapan Saturday (November 28) the Mindoro hunger strikers after they camped out for 11 days in front of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ central office in Quezon City.

From the pier, the group proceeded to the Bishop’s Residence where a press conference was held.

Mangyan Mission coordinator and one of the 25 hunger strikers Fr. Edu Gariguez read the special order signed by Secretary Joselito Atienza which has temporarily revoked the controversial Environmental Compliance Certificate earlier issued in favor of Intex Resources.

Gariquez said the temporary revocation may be considered a significant victory for everyone on Mindoro Island.

The DENR Special Order (No. 2009-921) dated November 27, 2009 said all allegations and issues against the controversial nickel mining project of the Norway-based Intex Resources will be subjected to a formal inquiry.

The same order calls for the creation of an investigating team to be composed of independent experts nominated by the provincial governments of Oriental and occidental Mindoro and the DENR. Civil society and indigenous peoples based in the two provinces will be represented in the committee.

The streamer says it all. Photo by Ma Nanette Montellano Geronimo

Mangyan leader Badang Isidro expressed her personal and her group’s thanks to Frs. Jimson Ruga, Calapan Social Action Center director, and Edu Gariguez for their dedication and commitment to their cause.

“Ang elemento ng grasya ng Diyos at ng hindi matatawarang suportang ibinigay ni Bishop Broderick Pabillo ang naging malaking dahilan para hindi ako mawalan ng pag-asa at magpatuloy pa sa kabila ng panghihina ng katawan,” Gariquez was quoted as saying.

He said their struggle at the DENR Central Office turned into success with the whole-hearted support of the Church and Manila-based non-government organizations as well as foreign organizations.

“Minsan pang napatunayan na tayo’y may magagawa kung tayo’y sama-sama at nananalig sa Diyos,” he concluded. (Fely Sevilla)

Source: CBCP News

Environment chief temporarily revokes Mindoro mining clearance

Mindoro hunger strikers and their supporters, including comedienne Juana Change (extreme right), pose for a souvenir photo following the announcement of revocation of the mining clearance of Intex Resources nickel project in Mindoro. Photo by Roslyn Arayata

PRESS RELEASE

Environment Secretary Lito Atienza on Friday (November 27) yielded to pressure and ordered a temporary revocation of the mining clearance he issued for the Mindoro nickel project of the Norway-based Intex Resources.

The chief of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) personally handed to the hunger strikers camped outside his office the special order he issued on the 11th day of protest fast staged by Mangyans, priests and environmental activists from Mindoro.

In his order, Atienza said that the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) released on October 14 “is hereby temporarily revoked pending completion of a thorough and impartial investigation that will validate all the allegations.”

The hunger strikers–who are members of the Alyansa Laban sa Mina (Alamin, Alliance Against Mining) and backed by civil society groups, Catholic church and local governments of Mindoro–demanded the immediate revocation of the ECC, citing its adverse impacts on the environment, food security and the ancestral domain claim of the Mangyans.

Atienza also directed the formation of a team of experts that will look into the issues raised by the Mindorenos.

Secretary Joselito Atienza shows the official order of temporary revocation of ECC as Victoria Vice Mayor Luis Castillet, Catholic Bishop Broderick Pabillo and other members of the clergy applaud. Photo by Roslyn Arayata

The investigation team will be composed of independent experts to be chosen by the provincial governments of Oriental and Occidental Mindoro and the DENR, said Atienza in his order.

“The investigation team shall also include representatives from civil society organizations and indigenous people’s federation based in Oriental and Occidental Mindoro,” he said.

Atienza said the team has to submit its report and conclusion 15 days after the “completion of the assigned task.”

“The report and conclusion of the investigation team shall be the basis in resolving the issues surrounding the ECC,” he said.

The temporary revocation order was a result of a compromise agreement reached during a closed-door meeting Thursday (November 26) between Atienza and representatives of Alamin—Fr. Edwin Gariguez and Alangan Mangyan leader Librada Isidro—at the headquarters of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo joined the negotiations.

The hunger strikers ended their protest Friday afternoon following a concelebrated thanksgiving mass officiated by Bishop Pabillo and other members of the clergy at the protest site.

For more information:

Fr. Edwin A. Gariguez, ALAMIN, (0919) 8005595, edugariguez@gmail.com, http://earthjedi.blogspot.com/
Jonjon Sarmiento, ALAMIN (0926) 230.32.05
Jaybee Garganera, ATM Coordinator, (0915) 315.37.19
Roslyn Arayata, ATM Policy Officer (0917) 521.7937

Groups vow more actions against Atienza; declare to take anti-mining battle to Manila

The Mindorenos, already feeling hungry and weak on their 10th day of protest, vow to continue with their hunger strike to press the Arroyo administration to cancel an 'illegally issued' mining clearance to Intex Resources. Photo by Raymond Panaligan

PRESS RELEASE

An alliance backed by more than 80 organizations vowed more actions against Atienza today, accusing him of callousness in resolving the demands of hunger strikes camped at the DENR central office. “We will mobilize people here in front of DENR and deliver to Atienza a clear message – he should clean up this mess he created in Mindoro or else face consequences in his candidacy in Manila”, said Jaybee Garganera, National Coordinator of the group Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM).

ATM is backing the hunger strike of Mindorenos who are demanding the cancellation of the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) of Intex Resources, Philippines, a Norwegian mining company set to operate in the provinces of Oriental and Occidental Mindoro. The group entered its 11th day of their hunger strike.
“While the hunger strikers go weaker everyday, we will lend our strength to them by coming out here in front of DENR in numbers” declared Garganera. He also said that they are preparing several support groups to join the hunger strikers in holding solidarity fasting, in the camp itself and in strategic locations in Manila City, to put more pressure on Atienza to act decisively on this issue.

The group also threatened to bring their struggle to Manila, as they are sure that Atienza is set to resign as DENR secretary and file his certificate of candidacy to run for Mayor of Manila by Saturday. “If Mr. Atienza feels that this nightmare will disappear after he leaves DENR, he is sadly mistaken. We will take this opportunity to tell students, workers, teachers, urban poor, drivers and even vendors in Manila, what a callous, heartless and dishonest person he is”, continued Garganera. He rebuked Atienza for raising the bogey that the hunger strike is a political ploy against him, saying that the legitimacy of the Mindorenos’ protest is completely documented.

The threat comes in the heel of swelling support to the hunger strikers, the latest coming from Bishop Broderick Pabillo of the Archdiocese of Manila. Bp. Pabillo issued a strongly-worded open letter last Nov. 24, 2009, appealing that Atienza revoke the ECC because of the flawed process it underwent. Yesterday, more than fifty indigenous peoples from the tribes of Aetas, Ifugaos, Dumagats, Remontados and Agtas visited the hunger strikers and expressed their solidarity. The IPs came from provinces of Nueva Vizcaya, Zambales, and Quezon.

Supporters of the hunger strike admit that they are getting more worried every day with the worsening physical condition of the hunger strikers, who all come from the local group, Alyansa Laban sa Mina ng Mindoro (ALAMIN). The group was established in 1999 to consolidate opposition to the Mindoro Nickel Project. The alliance has conducted numerous local and national mobilizations and International campaigns were also done in Europe.

The group in hunger strike, together with the local government officials of Oriental and Occidental Mindoro, Catholic Church leaders, civil society organizations and individuals from the communities affected by the project, reiterated their call for the immediate revocation of the ECC of INTEX and demanding the DENR to respect the LGUs’ mining moratorium in their respective provinces.

The Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), an advocacy group and a people’s movement that upholds the rights of the present and future Filipinos against the persisting injustices related to mining. ATM is an alliance of mining-affected communities and their support groups of NGOs/POs and other civil society organizations convened by HARIBON, Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center – Friends of the Earth Philippines (LRC/FOEI) and PhilDHRRA. —(30)

For more information:

Jaybee Garganera, ATM Coordinator, (0915) 315.37.19
Roslyn Arayata, ATM Policy Officer (0917) 521.7937

ON LINE Petition in support of the Mindoro Hunger Strike is on the web. Please manifest your support by signing up to the link below:

http://petitions.contact.ie/content/support-hunger-strike-against-intex-resources-mining-project

Open letter of tribal leader on hunger strike vs Mindoro mining to President Arroyo

Photograph of the original letter written in Hanunuo Mangyan dialect and script.

(Mangyan)

Mahal nimi Gloria Macapagal Arroyo,

Kawo Kanmi Pangulo sa buong Pilipinas. Atay kami kainda sa harapan opisina ni Secretary Lito Atienza bilang pinuno sa DENR. Kami tay nguna ay tanan yi magkalun-os ag magkagasa yi.

Kanmi kabuhayan ay madaot, kanmi sagradong lugay ay madaot din, kami ay mapapalayas ginan sa kanmi daga, ag ti kalikasan ay madaot. Adok mga buhi ti mamatay no ituloy ti planong pag mina, sa sulod daga ginurang. Buo kanmi paghadlang sa daka pagmimina.

Kanmi paghagadon sa kanmo bilang pinakaabwat lider sa Pilipinas ay bul-on yi kay bisa ti ECC na ipinahintulot sa Intex Resources.

Ti mag hagad mga mangyan sa Silangang Mindoro.

Pirmado ti may surat,

Ponyon Kadlos
Tagapag-ugnay ng Kapulungan Para sa Lupaing Ninuno (KPLN)

(Filipino)

Mahal naming Pangulong Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,

Kayo ang aming pangulo sa buong Pilippinas. Nandito kami ngayon sa harapan ng opisina ni Secretary Lito Atienza bilang pinuno sa DENR.

Kami ngayon ay lahat-lahat nagugutom at nanghihina na.

Ang aming kabuhayan ay mawawasak. Masisira ang aming pinahahalagahang sagradong lugar, kami ay mapapalayas sa aming lupain at ang kalikasan ay lubos na masira. Maraming mga buhay ang mamatay dahil sa napipintong planong pagmimina sa loob ng aming lupaing ninuno. Lubos naming tinutulan ang malawakang pagmimina.

Hinihingi namin sa iyo bilang pinakamataas na lider sa Pilipinas na ipawalang bisa na ang iginawad na ECC sa Intex Reources.

Ang humihingi ay mga katutubong Mangyan sa Silangang Mindoro.

Ang sumulat at lumagda,

Ponyong Kadlos
Tagapag-ugnay ng Kapulungan Para sa Lupaing Ninuno (KPLN)

(English)

Our beloved President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,

You are our president, the chief executive of the entire nation. We are here in front of the office of the head of the DENR Secretary Lito Atienza. We are hungry and weak.

Our “whole life” is at risk. Our sacred grounds will be ruined, we will be displaced from our land and the environment will be devastated. Lives are at risk because of the proposed mining within our ancestral domain. We strongly oppose large-scale mining.

As the highest leader of the Philippines, we ask you to revoke the ECC issued to Intex Resources,

We ask this on behalf of the Mangyans at Oriental Mindoro.

Written and signed by,

Ponyong Kadlos
Coordinator, Kapulungan Para sa Lupaing Ninuno (KPLN)

Manila, Philippines - Mangyan tribal leader, Ponyong Kadlos, on hunger strike against mining writes an open letter addressed to Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The letter is written in Hanuno Mangyan script, known endangered script in the Philippines. The letter presents the strong opposition of the Mangyans on the Mindoro Nickel Project owned by Norwegian mining company Intex Resources. November 23,2009. Photo by Roslyn Arayata, Policy Officer, Alyansa Tigil Mina

Manila, Philippines - Mangyan tribal leader, Ponyong Kadlos, on hunger strike against mining shows his open letter addressed to Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The letter is written in Hanuno Mangyan script, known endangered script in the Philippines. The letter presents the strong opposition of the Mangyans on the Mindoro Nickel Project owned by Norwegian mining company Intex Resources. Photo by Roslyn Arayata, Policy Officer, Alyansa Tigil Mina

Bishop dares Atienza to prove pro-life stance

PRESS RELEASE

MANILA, Philippines—As the hunger strike of anti-mining advocates pressing for the revocation of a mining clearance permit entered on its seventh day, a Catholic bishop dared Department Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Joselito Atienza to prove his pro-life stance by withdrawing the permit issued by his office to a mining company to operate in Mindoro.

In a strongly-worded letter sent to Atienza, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, called on the DENR secretary to uphold the law and revoke the environmental clearance certificate (ECC) issued to Norwegian mining company Intex Resources.

“You issued a defective ECC; have the courage to revoke it!” the bishop declared.

Pabillo, who also heads the Episcopal Commission on Social Action-Justice and Peace of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said it is better to go wrong defending the lives and rights of Filipinos than to err defending money and foreigners.

“Better to lose your face in front of foreigners than to lose it in front of your countrymen and women,” he said.

Indefinite suspension of ECC

Representatives from the Church, local officials of Mindoro provinces (LGU’s) and Mangyan leaders (IPs) dialogued with DENR officials on Nov. 18 asking for an indefinite suspension of ECC granted to Intex Resources.

“In the said dialogue, in front of two provincial governors, several mayors, congressmen, priests, two bishops, DENR officials and several Mangyan leaders, you were emphatic about your allegiance to the law and your assurance to punish anyone in your office who does not abide by the law,” Pabillo said in his letter.

But despite acceding to the “irregularity” of ECC, Atienza only issued a 90-day suspension order.

The order caught the anti-mining advocates by surprise, who had decided to call off the hunger strike after the “fruitful” dialogue.

Pabillo said Atienza’s action did not reflect accurately the discussions and agreements of the meeting.

Among those discussed and agreed in the meeting include 1) the recognition of the LGU’s moratorium on mining; 2) the failure of the Intex Resources to conduct a genuine consultation in the communities; 3) the steadfast refusal of LGUs to allow the entry of the Intez Resources in the area; and 4) the sustained rejection and withholding of consent of the legitimate indigenous people to be affected by the mining operation.

The bishop said they all felt betrayed by Atienza’s failure to act on the side of justice and truth.

“If the ECC is acquired with irregularity, why should it be just suspended for 90 days? Is it not invalid, and being so, must be revoked?” he asked.

Critical watershed area

Pabillo also scored the DENR’s failure to formally declare the contested area a watershed despite confirmation from Mindoro officials that “some 11,000 hectares covered by the ECC definitely include the watershed that feeds the two Mindoro provinces.”

The area has long been established as a watershed, which explains why a mining permit by the same company in July 2001 was cancelled by former DENR secretary Heherson Alvarez, Pabillo said.

Aside from being a critical watershed, the area is also home to the communities of Alangan and Tadyawan Mangyans.

Mangyan leaders, together with some priests and nuns and LGU officials have been on hunger strike in front of DENR office since Nov. 17 to press their demands.

They said the indigenous communities have never given a genuine Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), and that Intex Resources resorted to deception and indirect bribery to get the support of some tribal leaders.

“The 25 hunger strikers, most of them Mangyans, are now in the 7th day of their hunger strike. Don’t you care at all for their situation? Is this not part of your pro-life stance?” Pabillo asked Atienza.

Responsibility towards environment and people

While urging Atienza to act quickly in canceling the permit, the bishop also reminded the official of his responsibility towards the environment and the people who depend on it.

“Allow me to remind you that your responsibility is more towards the care of the Philippine environment and the Filipinos who mostly depend on a well-balanced ecosystem than towards foreign investors who are here not to help our country—inspite of their protestations—but to exploit us and our natural resources,” Pabillo said.

Rich in natural resources, Mindoro is considered the food basket of southern Tagalog provinces including Metro Manila. Farmers depend on the rivers for irrigation of rice fields. To preserve the island’s ecosystem from destruction, both provinces of Oriental and Occidental Mindoro have issued a moratorium on mining for 25 years.

Gross violation of the law

“You have always insisted on the observance of the law. But the way you disregarded the decision of the local government units in Mindoro is a gross violation of Section 70 of the Mining Act of 1995, which clearly requires the conduct of a genuine consultation, approval and endorsement through ordinance from the affected municipalities and the provincial government,” the letter said

Pabillo noted that the issuance of ECC also has no basis because DENR “disregarded the decision of the independent scientists who conducted the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).”

The EIA Review Committee for the Mindoro Nickel Project on September 23, 2009 had recommended a denial of an ECC for the mining company. But the DENR office reversed the decision by issuing an ECC on October 14, 2009.

Reiterating his appeal for the cancellation of the ECC, Pabillo said the people would not have gone on hunger strike if not for its issuance.

“I appeal to you, Mr. Secretary, to revoke the ECC. Do not blame the people for going into hunger strike… They want to have their voices heard, and now, many people even out of Mindoro—bishops, priests, religious, lawmakers, students, parishioners and many NGO supporters are hearing it,” he said.

The bishop said it is now the time for the DENR official to prove his pro-life stance.

“Otherwise, please do not campaign on pro-life issues in the coming election and do not claim that you are for the good of the local government in which you would be running,” Pabillo said. “I pray that you would have courage, humility and compassion,” he added. (Pinky Barrientos, FSP)

Source: CBCP News

Mindoro officials threaten to sue environment chief on Intex mining clearance

arnan

Oriental Mindoro Governor Arnan Panaligan condemns Environment Secretary Lito Atienza over the issuance of an environmental compliance certificate to the nickel mining project of Intex Resources on Mindoro island during the October 30 rally in Calapan City. Photo by MA NANETTE MONTELLANO GERONIMO/ALAMIN

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MANILA, Philippines—Local government officials in Mindoro denounced Environment Secretary Lito Atienza for the “irregular” and “patently illegal” issuance of a mining clearance to the Norwegian-based Intex Resources.

The officials, led by the governors and congressmen of the island’s two provinces, threatened to file appropriate charges against Atienza for granting an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) to the Mindoro Nickel Project of Intex.

Oriental Mindoro Governor Arnan Panaligan said Atienza might be held liable for violating the Mining Act when he issued the ECC, saying: “The mining site is within the critical area of the watershed and it is also an ancestral domain area.”

“That’s one option, because in our view the Mining Act has been violated in the issuance of the ECC. There’s a provision in the Mining Act banning mining activities in watershed and ancestral domain areas,” Panaligan said.

Panaligan said the Mindoro officials would look into the possible administrative and criminal liabilities of Atienza in giving the go-ahead signal to the widely-opposed nickel mine project, which covers 11,216.6 hectares.

“We are opposed to this project because the ECC is irregular. It seems that the process for this ECC was done summarily,” Panaligan said.

Occidental Mindoro Governor Josephine Ramirez-Sato said the action of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) was an affront to the authority of local officials to protect the environment and general welfare of their constituents as enshrined in the Local Government Code.

Sato stressed that based on DENR Administration Order 9640 series of 1996, the environment department should study first the impact  of the mining project on the environment before giving its green light.

The ECC was issued despite the project’s lack of “legitimate social acceptability,” a provision contained in the Philippine mining and local government laws.

Oriental Mindoro has ordered a 25-year moratorium on large-scale mining while the municipal council of Sablayan and the town’s 22 villages separately issued resolutions opposing the environmentally destructive mining project.

About 5,000 Mindorenos join the mock funeral to protest Environment Secretary Lito Atienza issuance of an environmental compliance certificate to a nickel mining project of Intex Resources on Mindoro island during the October 30 rally in Calapan City. Photo by MA NANETTE MONTELLANO GERONIMO/ALAMIN

About 5,000 Mindorenos join the mock funeral to protest Environment Secretary Lito Atienza issuance of an environmental compliance certificate to a nickel mining project of Intex Resources on Mindoro island during the October 30 rally in Calapan City. Photo by MA NANETTE MONTELLANO GERONIMO/ALAMIN

“We oppose this project not because we are against the national government’s thrust on large-scale mining. We oppose this project because its ECC is irregular. It would seem that the process for this ECC was done summarily,” said Panaligan.

“If they have the authority on mining, we have the authority in the local government. We would stand by our strong opposition to mining,” Sato said.

“If they file cases against us on this, we will continue to fight for the interest of our constituents and the environment,” Sato said.

“We are now gathering (pieces of) evidence so we can firm up our legal action,” she said.

“The destruction of our watershed areas will deprive our people of sources of water for drinking and irrigation purposes. More seriously, the destruction of critical watershed will lead to disastrous flooding that will kill our people and destroy our communities,” he said.

But Panaligan said the local officials and civil society groups in Mindoro would first exhaust all available legal remedies to reverse the “patently illegal” and “unjust action” of the  DENR before bringing the issue before the court.

The local governments of Mindoro might file a motion for reconsideration before the DENR or make a direct appeal to the Office of the President, Panaligan said.

Sato said the project would also imperil the country’s food security as Mindoro is considered as a food basket in the Philippines.

The project covers around 3,000 hectares in the municipalities of Victoria in Oriental Mindoro and about 9,000 hectares in Sablayan town in Occidental Mindoro. The project is expected to produce 100 to 120 million tons of ore over a period of 15 to 20 years.

Abra de Ilog Mayor Eric Constantino said about 20,000 Mangyan, the indigenous people of Mindoro, would be affected by the project as it would encroach on their ancestral land.

At the same time, he said the project will disturb the habitat of the already endangered Tamaraw, which is endemic on Mindoro island. The Tamaraw has been on the list of endangered species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature in Switzerland.

Panaligan said the mining project had been canceled by former Environment Secretary Heherson Alvarez because it failed to pass the DENR’s study done by the technical review committee. But Michael “Mike” Defensor, who replaced Alvarez, reinstated the mining application in 2005.

Oriental Mindoro Representative Alfonso Umali said a series of protest actions would be launched to stop the entry of Intex into the already ecologically-fragile island.

“Kapag tinatanong ako ng media kung ano ang dahilan kung bakit binigyan ng ECC (ang Intex Resources ), ang sinasabi ko, ‘Magkano ang dahilan?’,” Umali said but refused to elaborate.

On October 30, around 5,000 indignant Mindorenos held a mock funeral in Calapan City to protest the “railroaded” issuance of the ECC to Intex.

Panaligan, who spoke during the rally, lambasted Atienza for the “patently illegal” issuance of the mining clearance even as he called the DENR as the “Department for Environmental Destruction.”

For more information:
Governor Josephine Ramirez-Sato
Mobile number: 0918-9068254

Governor Arnan Panaligan
Provincial Capitol: (63)43 2867118; (63)43 288-4789

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