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
“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
Filed under: Press Release | Tagged: Alfonso Umali, Arnan Panaligan, Biodiversity, DENR, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, ECC, Environmental Compliance Certificate, Flood, Food securtiy, Intex, Intex Resources, Josephine Ramirez-Sato, Lito Atienza, Mindoro Nickel Project, Mindoro opposition, Mining moratorium, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Sablayan, Watershed | 2 Comments »