Mindoreños begin hunger strike to protest mining ECC

Members of the indigenous Mangyan community hold a streamer on the ground of the provincial capitol of Oriental Mindoro in Calapan City on November 16 protesting the Mindoro Nickel Project of the Norway-based Intex Resources. They are set to start a hunger strike in front of the DENR head office in Quezon City to call for the immediate revocation of the mining clearance. FR. EDWIN GARIGUEZ/ALAMIN

PRESS RELEASE

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – Individuals from the province of Mindoro put their lives at stake through a hunger strike in front of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in protest to Secretary Lito Atienza’s issuance of environmental compliance certificate (ECC) to a Norweigan mining company’s nickel project in Mindoro.

“Today, twenty-five (25) Mindoreños, which include 16 individuals from the Mangyan tribe, 7 from non-IP residents from Oriental and Occidental Mindoro and 2 priests have vowed to be on indefinite hunger strike to express their strongest denunciation of the DENR’s action in issuing the ECC to Intex Resources despite of the overwhelming opposition from the mining affected communities, Catholic Church groups, civil society organizations and the local governments of Oriental and Occidental Mindoro,” said Fr. Edu Gariguez of Mangayan Mission, one of the individuals who committed to the hunger strike.

“The 25 individuals on hunger strike represent the 25 years of mining moratorium ordinance issued by the Province of Oriental Mindoro in 2002. Our action is part of a larger campaign by the people of Mindoro, who have united under the banner ‘Alyansa Laban sa Mina (ALAMIN), to save and protect the island province from large-scale mining operations like the Mindoro Nickel Project, which will cause irreparable damage to the environment, endanger the health and lives of the people, and threaten food security in the province,” added Fr. Grariguez.

To expound on some of the reasons why Mindoreños oppose the Nickel Project in their Province, Gariguez enumerated the following:

a) Watershed destruction, Mindoro’s economy is largely based on agriculture. The Mindoro Nickel Project (MNP) is directly located in the Mag-asawang Watershed, which is the source of irrigation for some 50,000-hectare rice fields in the towns of Victoria, Naujan and Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro. These three towns are responsible for 51% of the total rice production of the province;

b) Biodiversity concerns. The mine-site is a major biodiversity conservation area. MNP’s processing site falls within the Verde Island Passage Marine Biodiversity Area;

c) Indigenous peoples’ (IP) concerns, MNP is located within the ancestral domain claims of Alangan and Tadyawan Mangyans. Mining will have great impacts on their livelihood and culture; and

d) Local government opposition. The province of Oriental Mindoro passed a 25-year mining moratorium ordinance in 2002 prohibiting the entry of all large-scale mining. In Occidental Mindoro, similar mining moratorium ordinances were passed by the municipal governments of Sablayan, Abra de Ilog, Paluan, Looc and Lubang. Eight(8) out of eleven (11) municipalities in Occidental Mindoro passed a resolution against MNP.

“The Philippine Government should be alarmed by the chosen level of action taken by the Mindoreños to express their strong opposition to the nickel project. They have put their lives at stake because this is the fight for their future. The fight of Mindoreños vs. Intex Resources is actually about food vs. mining and people vs. profit!,” exclaimed ATM national coordinator Jaybee Garganera.

“We, in ATM, strongly support the fight of the Mindoreños against Intex Resources and we intend to continue providing all forms of assistance to these communities and groups that have strongly aired their resistance and decisions to stop the entry of mining operations that continuously threatens environmental sustainability and most especially lives of Filipino people,” concluded Garganera.

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 the project calls for the immediate revocation of INTEX ECC and demand 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.

For more information:
Fr. Edwin A. Gariguez, ALAMIN, (0919) 8005595, edugariguez@gmail.com, http://earthjedi.blogspot.com/
Jeff Rafa, ALAMIN (0918) 9443561 / Jaybee Garganera, ATM Coordinator, (0915) 315.37.19/
Roslyn Arayata, ATM Policy Officer (0917) 521.7937

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