By Joey Natividad
BORONGAN, Eastern Samar, Philippines — Residents of a tiny island off Eastern Samar face to lose their land at sea level if a mining firm starts digging for nickel, a mining operation that will eventually pulverize the island into an earth dump of waste material.
Manicani, a very small island off the coast of Guiuan in Eastern Samar, that is inhabited by barely 2,000 plus individuals, faces ecological disaster once mining firm, Hinatuan Mining Corporation (HMC), pushes for the renewal of its Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) which has expired on 28 October 2017.
Various groups held a simultaneous action on October 27, a day before the MPSA expires, in support of a protest by the island residents of Manicani, against the said mining company for its nickel mining project in Manicani. Based on the records of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), HMC has already filed an application for renewal for another 25 years.
The protesting groups informed Bicol Today.com in Naga City on Sunday, October 29, about their protest actions against mining.
According to the protesters, about 200 persons staged a protest action led by Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI), together with network partners, Community Multiversity (COM) and Urban Poor Associates (UPA), accompanied the United Manicani Community in Metro Manila, Inc. and Protect Manicani Island Society, Inc. (PROMISI).
The group trooped to the Central Office of the MGB in Quezon City to file a formal opposition against HMC’s application for renewal of MPSA, personally submitted by Ms. Rebecca “Manang Becky” Destajo, a resident of Manicani and leader of PROMISI.
Too small an island, huge profit for mining capitalists
To serve as background, Manicani is a 1,165 hectare island that is part of the Guiuan Protected Seascape and Landscape that was integrated into the NIPAS.
The expiring MPSA of HMC is also 1,165 hectares covering almost the entire island. Its mining operations was suspended in 2002 and was never lifted since.
The Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. (PMPI) is a social development and advocacy network comprising of 250 faith-based groups, NGO’s, PO’s in partnership with Misereor – the social development arm of the German Bishops. The network members have various projects on community development and advocacies on Anti-Mining and Environmental Protection, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction and Management, Peace and Human Rights, and Sustainable Agriculture and Fisheries Development.
“Ayaw nilang makinig sa aming mga hinaing. Gusto nilang sirain ng tuluyan ang isla namin. Ang mga opisyales ng aming LGU ay iba ang prioridad. Pinagpapasahan kami ng DENR, ng MGB, at ng EMB sa mga dokumentong hinihingi namin,” said Rebecca Destajo, of Protect Manicani Island Society, Inc. (PROMISI).
Ms. Destajo, who flew to Manila from an ongoing camp-out of Manicani residents in front of the DENR Region 8 office, said “Ito na mga kababayan kong taga-Manicani, nagfile na ako ng pormal na protesta. Hindi natin papayagan na ubusin nila ang ating napakaliit na isla. Ang hanapbuhay namin ay dalawa lang – pagsasaka at pangingisda na parehong mawawala kapag tuluyang minina ang isla,” she said.
In front of MGB Central Office, Mr. Fred Macabasag Jr. of the United Manicani Residents in Metro Manila, Inc. lamented, “Ako ay pinanganak sa isla ng Manicani, at dito na naninirahan sa Manila. Alam ko po ang kwento kung paano nagsimula ang mina. Pinangakuan po nila ang mga tao ng magagandang magiging bunga nito sa komunidad pero kabaligtaran po ang nangyari. Lalong naghirap ang mamayan ng isla.”
Protests in Eastern Samar
In Guiuan, another 200 individuals from Manicani, mainland Guiuan, and other parts of Eastern Samar paraded in a motorcade around the town of Guiuan in indignation to the actions by the barangays of Manicani and the Sangguniang Bayan of Guiuan for endorsing the application for MPSA renewal of HMC despite petitions filed by the residents, Bicol Today.com learned.
Earlier, the group also held programs in protest of the actions of these LGU officials.
Last year, the SB of Guiuan signed resolution No. 32 that recommended the cancellation of Ore Transport Permit (OTP) and Mineral Ore Export Permit (MOEP) of the same company that they have endorsed now. The same resolution also recommended to the DENR not to allow mining in Manicani.
After the motorcade, the group proceeded to Borongan where the program continued. The program was held at the Borongan Plaza where the group expressed the same sentiments.
Borongan is the seat of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Eastern Samar that also endorsed the same application despite of its existing Provincial Ordinance No. 09 signed in 2005, which bans large-scale mining in the province of Eastern Samar.
Local Church anti-mining stand
According to the protesters, the Diocese of Borongan, through His Excellency Bishop Varquez, issued a statement with emphasis on the Encyclical Letter of Pope Francis “to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor”.
In the same statement, the Bishop said that he does not believe that mining brings economic progress, and cited the Island of Homonhon where large-scale mining operation of Mt. Sinai/Techiron is on-going.
The Bishop said, “Mining in the area has operated for more than 25 years, but the majority of the people in the island remain poor and have become even poorer.”
“Ayaw talaga namin ng mina pagkat ito ay nakakasira hindi lang sa kalikasan kundi maging sa aming kabuhayan at pamayanan,” said Marcial Somooc, a Manicani Island resident who is also the President of PROMISI, and have been at the forefront of their campaign against mining in their island.
Small voices in the government
The protesters showed fairness to town public officials who, as small voices in the government, showed their anti-mining stand.
Mayor Asebias of Quinapondan town was present during the program. He said that existing laws such as the Local Government Code are clear when it comes to the protection of the environment.
Asebias said that in the case of mining in Homonhon and Manicani Islands, there are no basis for allowing it, thus the barangay and SB issuances (referring to the recent endorsement) are void.
He continued, “Tulungan natin ang mga taga Manicani sa ano mang paraan ng tulong na kailangan nila, mula sa legal advises, at pagsampa ng kaso sa mga government officials na nasa likod ng pag endorso. There has been attempts to ask permit to explore for possible mineral ore in Quinapondan Mountains, but as long as I’m the mayor, there will be no mining in our land”
Mayor Melgar of Borongan had sent a representative to show solidarity for the Manicani Islanders. [BicolToday.com]