AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People strongly condemns the violent dispersal of the human barricade of Sibuyanons who were guarding their communities and protecting the environment in Sibuyan Island, Romblon province. Based on the reports from organizations on the ground, several residents were hurt during the incident.
“This violence must stop!” said Cleng Julve, Campaigns Officer of AGHAM. “We demand an immediate investigation of the authorities involved in the violent dispersal. The people of Romblon must be allowed to freely exercise their right to protect the environment and defend their island from destruction. APMC must stop their operations and pull out of the area. Their mining activities have already negatively impacted the forest cover and biodiversity of Sibuyan Island. If allowed to continue, it will mean further and irreversible destruction of the island’s major river systems.”
The local residents under the group Sibuyanons Against Mining are barricading to stop the Altai Philippines Mining Corporation (APMC) from transporting nickel ores out of the island. Tension arose when police were deployed in the barricade area, reminding residents of past experience with armed forces hired to protect corporate mining interests. In 2007, Armin Marin, an environmental defender and elected municipal councilor of Sibuyan Island was gunned down in a protest action against mining by security forces of a mining corporation affiliated with APMC.
“Mining has no place in a small island ecosystem such as Sibuyan,” said Julve. “Small islands with forests, mangroves and seagrass beds are natural carbon sinks that serve as a defense for intensifying climate events. They are also unique because of their biodiversity and are vital to the livelihood of the island residents who rely on the natural environment to meet their needs. We have already seen the adverse effects of mining in islands such as Rapu-Rapu and Dinagat, whose ecosystems suffered from years of mining operations.”
In 1996, Mt Guiting-guiting in Sibuyan Island was declared a protected natural park covering more than 15,200 hectares of land. The mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) of APMC covers 1,581 hectares of which a significant portion is within the protected area.
“The mining permit for Sibuyan was one of the first signed by President Marcos in his term. We suspect a political connivance between the Gatchalians, who own APMC, and the Marcoses,” said Julve.
On July 12, 2022, the First Renewal of Exploration permit was issued by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) to APMC, owned by the Gatchalian family. During the election, Senator Sherwin Gacthalian and Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian fully supported the candidacy of President Bongbong Marcos. Earlier this week, President Marcos appointed Rex Gatchalian as the new head of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
“It is inhuman, un-ecological, and unscientific for President Marcos and the DENR to allow big mining to destroy one of the richest and most biodiverse islands in the world. We do remember the heroism of Armin Marin. We stand with the people of Sibuyan in their calls: No to destructive mining in Romblon; APMC, get out of Sibuyan! APMC and the national government should heed this.” Julve ended. ###