Mindoro hunger strikers vow more actions to press revocation of mining ECC

Hunger strikers greet Filipino boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao whose victory parade kicked off at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources office in Quezon City. Pacquio, a close ally of Environment Secretary Lito Atienza, was urged by the protesters to convince the former Manila mayor to revoke Intex Resources’ clearance to mine on Mindoro island. Photo by Raymond Panaligan

PRESS RELEASE

MANILA, Philippines—The Mindoro hunger strikers have vowed to take more actions to press for the cancellation and not just mere suspension of an environmental clearance issued by Environment Secretary Lito Atienza to a Norwegian mining firm.

“We have expressed our strong opposition to the Mindoro Nickel Project (MNP) for more than fifteen years now. Our call is for the revocation of the Intex environmental compliance certificate (ECC) and not merely a suspension, which reflects the government’s bias on the mining company over the interest of the people of Mindoro,” said Fr. Edu Gariguez, spokesman of the Mindoro-based Alyansa Laban sa Mina (ALAMIN, Alliance Against Mining).

Gariguez is one of the 25 hunger strikers from Mindoro, who since November 17 are camped outside the head office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) along Visayas Avenue in Quezon City.

“Our protests have already escalated to the level of putting our lives at stake. We will not leave the grounds of DENR and we are committed to continue our protest until the Intex ECC is revoked,” said the Catholic priest.

Atienza on November 18 ordered a 90-day suspension of the ECC he issued to Intex, asking the Oslo-based firm to submit a documentation of the public consultation held in Mindoro and to ascertain that the project does not cover a watershed area.

Sensing that the order was just meant to ensure the continued operations of Intex, the hunger strikers decided against ending their protest.

“We are not satisfied with our dialogues with the DENR. Our call for the revocation on the Intex ECC should not be watered down to a suspension of the ECC,” said Oriental Mindoro Vice-Governor Estela Aceron.

“We will further exhaust all legal and all extra-legal means to fight for our local autonomy to protect the long-term interests of our people,” Aceron said.

Oriental Mindoro Governor Arnan Panaligan recalled that in 2001, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo revoked the mining firm’s permit to extract nickel on Mindoro island following then Environment Secretary Heherson Alvarez’s order cancelling its ECC.

“In 2001, the Philippine government scrapped the MNP based on environmental and social impacts. We still carry the same issues why we strongly oppose the MNP,” said Panaligan.

At the same time, Panaligan found Atienza’s attempts to railroad the process as an affront to the authority of the local governments of Mindoro.

“We find the DENR disrespectful of our local autonomy for not recognizing our province’s existing 25-year mining moratorium issued in 2002,” he said.

Librada Isidro, one of the 25 hunger strikers and leader of the Alangan tribe, said the project, which covers 11,216.6 hectares, will encroach on their ancestral land.

“Our tribe has an existing certificate of ancestral domain claim (CADC) to our land and we are in the process of securing our certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT). If the MNP pushes through, all our hard efforts in asserting the indigenous peoples’ empowerment will simply be gone to waste,” said Isidro.

“We ask President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, if she truly stands for the interest of the Filipinos especially the marginalized sector, to protect our rights as IPs by revoking the Intex ECC,” she said.

“The campaign of the Mindoreños against large-scale mining has already reached international attention and has already impacted the mineral trade. The government should stop undermining or insulting the protest of the Mindoreños with a mere suspension order on Intex ECC instead of an ECC revocation,” said Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of the anti-mining network Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM, Alliance to Stop Mining.

“In fact, it was reported that the share trading of Intex Resources is halted by the Oslo Stock Exchange after a 8.2 percent fall to a 10-week low for the stock following the suspension of a mining permit issued due to the pressure of the Mindoreños” Garganera said.

“We, in ATM, commend the strength, high spirits and bravery of the Mindoreños and we vow to continue our utmost support on their fight for a sustainable future,” he said.

The 25 hunger strikers symbolize the 25-year ban on large-scale mining imposed by the local governments of Mindoro. The protesters are composed mostly of Mangyans, with two Catholic priests and some residents joining them.

The protest action also has the support of more than 80 environmental organizations nationwide.

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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