MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) technical review committee has recommended the non-issuance of an environmental clearance to a nickel mining project of the Norway-based Intex Resources on Mindoro island.
In a brief report, Rene Rollon, chairman of the Environmental Impact Assessment Review Committee, said the recommendation of the group is the non-issuance of an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) to the Mindoro Nickel Project.
The recommendation, however, was ignored by Environment Secretary Lito Atienza, who on October 14 gave Intex the go-ahead signal to mine 11,216.6 hectares of land in Mindoro, the Alyansa Laban sa Mina (ALAMIN, Alliance Against Mining) said.
In his letter to Cesar Ciador Jr., chief officer-in-charge of the DENR’s Environmental Impact Assessment Division, Rollon said the review committee voted in its fourth and final meeting on September 23 to recommend the ECC denial.
The multidisciplinary group cited the project’s lack of baseline information on the terrestrial flora and fauna in the proposed project site.
“Considering the uniqueness of Mindoro island in its biographic status, the review committee believes that approving the mining project with such inadequacies would be highly irresponsible,” said Rollon, who is also the director of the University of the Philippines-Diliman Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology.
The review committee also found that the delineation of impact areas, more so of the indirect impact areas, has been poor.
“Although some adjacent areas, e.g. Sablayan, Calapan, Naujan lake, etc., might not be among the indirect impact areas the justifications of such should have been very clear,” Rollon said.
“Overall, the integration among modules has been very poor, making inference of possible major impacts vague and extremely difficult to evaluate,” he said.
The review committee also noted Intex’s failed attempts to conduct public hearings in Victoria and Pola towns after the provincial government of Oriental Mindoro served cease orders, invoking the province’s 25-year ban on 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 out of 11 municipalities in Occidental Mindoro passed a resolution against the nickel mining project.
The only successful public consultation was done in Mamburao, in Occidental Mindoro.
But technical issues were raised during committee deliberations whether the public consultation in Mamburao, which is far beyond the direct and indirect impact areas, “could pass as a site for such a meeting, and whether such meeting could pass as a public hearing in view of the publication requirement which was not met,” Rollo said.
“No further public hearing efforts were conducted, with the proponents and preparers arguing that, with the circumstances surrounding the project, the public hearing requirement has been complied with,” he said.
To expound on some of the reasons why Mindoreños oppose the nickel project in Mindoro, ALAMIN spokesman Fr. Edwin Gariguez enumerated the following:
a) Watershed destruction, Mindoro’s economy is largely based on agriculture. The Mindoro Nickel Project is directly located in the Mag-asawang Watershed, a source of irrigation water for some 50,000-hectare rice fields in the towns of Victoria, Naujan and Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro. These three towns account for about 51 percent of the total rice production of the province;
b) Biodiversity concerns. The mine-site is a major biodiversity conservation area. The nickel project’s processing site falls within the Verde Island Passage Marine Biodiversity Area;
c) Indigenous peoples’ concerns. The mine site encroaches on the ancestral domain of Alangan and Tadyawan Mangyans. Mining will have great impacts on their livelihood and culture; and
d) Local government opposition.
Early this month, the island’s two governors, Arnan Panaligan of Oriental Mindoro and Josephine Ramirez-Sato of Occidental Mindoro, threatened to sue Atienza over the “patently illegal” issuance of the mining clearance.
Since Tuesday (November 17), 25 protesters, mostly Mangyans, have been on a hunger strike in front of the DENR head office in Quezon City, demanding the immediate revocation of Intex’s clearance to mine on Mindoro island.
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