2 tribal hunger strikers rushed to hospital; groups denounce Atienza’s inaction on ECC cancellation demand

The Mindoro hunger strikers listen to Fr. Robert "The Running Priest" Reyes outside the Department of Environment and Natural Resources head office in Quezon City. Photo by Ma. Nanette Montellano Geronimo

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Two of the 25 Mindorenos who have been on a hunger strike since Tuesday (November 17) last week in front of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) central office in Quezon City were rushed to a nearby hospital after complaining of dizziness, chillness and abdominal pains.

Edgardo Cruzado, 38, community leader from the Kapulungan Para sa Lupaing NInuno – KPLN (Organization of Seven Tribes), was brought to East Avenue Medical Center at around 9 p.m. on Saturday (November 21) after suffering locked jaws and cold sweats.

On Sunday morning (November 22), Jose Cruzado was brought to the same hospital after five days of fasting with fellow Mangyan leaders, priests and other anti-mining activists from Mindoro demanding the immediate revocation of an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) issued by Environment Secretary Lito Atienza to the Mindoro Nickel Project of Norway-based Intex Resources, said Jeff Rafa of the Alyansa Laban sa Mina (Alamin, Alliance Against Mining).

“We decided to rush them to the hospital after complaining of dizziness,” said Jonjon Sarmiento of Alyansa Laban sa Mina (ALAMIN), the broad alliance anti-mining groups in Mindoro.

“We will hold Secretary Atienza personally responsible for whatever happens to the hunger strikers. He is using the sham suspension letter as an excuse not to cancel the ECC. He is again raising the issue of local autonomy, and the responsibility of local officials and communities to oppose the mining in their localities,” Sarmiento, who just arrived from a civil society summit in Rome on food security, said.

Attending physicians at the hospital said the two tribal protesters were suffering from hypoglycemia, a condition produced by a lower than normal level of blood glucose triggered by their lack of solid food intake.

But Edgardo Cruzado, after being examined and given dextrose, was discharged at around 4:30 a.m. on Sunday. He joined the camp again.

Edgardo Cruzado vowed to remain with the group, despite the medical order to stop his hunger strike. KPLN is an organization of Mangyan communities from Oriental Mindoro.

Cruzado is a widower with five children. His main livelihood is farming in Oriental Mindoro, and is a member of the Tadyawan tribe that holds an ancestral domain land certificate (CADC-086) in the mining-affected area.

The Mindorenos decided to go continue their hunger strike after DENR Sec. Atienza merely issued a letter to mining company Intex Resources Philippines, informing them that their ECC is suspended for 90 days, pending submission of additional documents.

Gardo Cruzado


Atienza issued the letter suspending the ECC after a dialogue last November 18 with local government officials and civil society organizations from the two Mindoro provinces. The delegation was led by the island’s two governors, two bishops and a host of community leaders representing the indigenous peoples, farmers and women from Mindoro.

“Secretary Atienza has missed the fact that all legal and extra-legal measures have been exhausted by the Mindorenos to oppose the entry of Intex, and yet he still signed the ECC, even under questionable circumstances. The real issue here now is whether or not Atienza wants to uphold the law,” said Mangyan Mission Coordinator Fr. Edwin Gariguez.

He said that the ECC was signed by Atienza despite the absence of consultations among communities, and the lack of permission of LGUs as stated under the Mining Act and the Local Government Code.

“The local governments and the people have withdrawn their consent and launched mobilizations against Intex, but these have been disregarded, both the mining company and the DENR”, Gariguez added.

The Alyansa TIgil Mina (ATM) condemned the continuing callousness of Atienza and DENR officials on their inaction on the demand of the hungers strikers, saying that there seems to be a lack of genuine leadership and commitment to resolve the matter, as the election mode grips the department.

ATM National Coordinator Jaybee Garganera also denounced Atienza’s insensitivity, saying the DENR secretary continues to ignore the Mindorenos despite their hunger strike.

“He had only met the group once, and only after being pressured with the presence of high-level personalities such as the governors, congressional representatives and bishops from Mindoro. He had never tried to face the group but had all the time and energy to host Manny Pacquiao in his triumphant return,” said 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.

Father Robert Reyes, known as the “running priest,” continued his solidarity fasting for the group and gave out rosaries to the hunger strikers yesterday. He called on Atienza to heed the hunger strikers’ just demand.

During the reflection session with the hunger strikers, he said “If anything happens to these people, the mining companies and DENR Secretary Atienza will have blood in their hands. This is not simply about land anymore, but about justice and sharing what God had given to us. Sustainable development and genuine local autonomy, if it will succeed in this case of resistance of local people against mining, will mean peace, justice and no more lying without end. Respect the decision of these indigenous peoples and the LGUs of MIndoro, Mr. Atienza.”

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
Jonjon Sarmiento, ALAMIN (0926) 230.32.05
Roslyn Arayata
, ATM Policy Officer (0917) 521.7937

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