Guiuan, Eastern Samar — It is truly Christmas! DENR sent out a gift to Manicani people when it rejected with finality the application of Hinatuan Mining Corporation (HMC) to extend its mining permit for its Manicani project for another 25 years. Manicani islanders will be spending their Christmas holidays this year with peace of mind and a flicker of hope that future generations will have the opportunity to enjoy their island's gifts of nature.
The Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI) rejoices with its partners in Manicani, the Protect Manicani Island Society Inc. (PROMISI), and the Diocese of Borongan in receiving the good news published in www.inquirer.com that announced the positive position of the DENR on the mining issue in Manicani. As a stakeholder on the island's development through an integrated island rehabilitation and development project, PMPI supports the cause of protecting environment and people. PMPI has been dreaming with the people of Manicani for this day to come to the island.
“We hold on to Sec. Cimatu's recognition of our island as a protected area, and we look forward to his promise that it will be rehabilitated and that alternative livelihoods will be provided,” stated Rosalinda Bergado, a Manicani youth resident and member of PROMISI.
“I wasn't around on my father's deathbed because I was in Manila with fellow advocates fighting for this cause, but this news somehow eases the devastation I felt”, she added. Ms. Bergado in her young age, has been publicly speaking against mining in Manicani.
Meanwhile, the Diocese of Borongan who has always been at the forefront supporting the protection of Manicani island welcomes the pronouncement of the DENR officials.
“The people of Manicani has suffered long because of the mining operations on the island. It is good that Sec. Cimatu is finally putting an end to it. This a very important milestone in the struggle against mining not just in Manicani but in the whole of the Samar Island", noted Fr. Juderick Paul Calumpiano, the social action director of the diocese.
While in awe of such victory, PMPI calls on its partners to remain vigilant and continue monitoring the implementation of such pronouncements and ensure that rehabilitation will be implemented accordingly.
“We are very happy with this development, and we are hoping that healing will soon follow among the divided people of Manicani. But at the same time, we won't settle for public pronouncements. We want to see concrete documents and actions from the Secretary that would direct HMC to leave the island”, stated Ms. Yolanda Esguerra, National Coordinator of PMPI.
PMPI continues to call on the DENR to look into the plight of other communities affected by mining. It should weigh on the MGB's statement that the provision on opening new mines in EO 79 should be lifted as well as MICC's recommendation to lift the ban on open pit mining.
"We hope and continue to pray that Sec. Cimatu will heed the President's pronouncements that the ban on open pit mining stays and that he will not waver on his position to reject HMCs application with finality despite strong lobby from mining companies to decide otherwise” Ms. Esguerra further said.
Manicani residents folding their camp and belongings as they end their encampment outside DENR Central Office. Photo by Jerico Catalla/PMPI.
Quezon City - The Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. (PMPI), welcomes the positive outcome of the dialogue between Secretary Roy Cimatu of DENR and Protect Manicani Island Society Inc. (PROMISI) last December 11, 2017. In assuring the members of PROMISI that the island is already protected by law and by promising support to livelihood and rehabilitation of the island, campers decided to fold the camp and head back home to bring the good news to the islanders for Christmas.
The dialogue, facilitated by the Bishop Crispin Varquez of the Diocese of Borongan took place a month after PROMISI started camping out in front of the DENR gates adding pressure for the dialogue to happen.
Marcial Somooc, President of PROMISI, stressed that, "...while the Secretary has not issued an official document in agreement with our demands, we hold his words during the dialogue that the DENR recognizes Manicani Island as part of the Guiuan Protected Area. This is a Christmas present that we will bring back to our family and communities."
In 1994, two years after the issuance of the contested and now expired MPSA of Hinatuan Mining Corporation (HMC), Guiuan, Eastern Samar was declared a Protected Seascape/Landscape through Presidential Proclamation 469 issued by then President Fidel V. Ramos. The said HMC MPSA was also suspended by DENR in 2002 and was never lifted since.
Rebecca Destajo, stated that, “After 25 years of struggle against HMC's mining operations, this is just the beginning of our victory. Despite the many obstacles and hindrances that came our way, let this day be a happy one to mark our victory against destructive mining. The DENR Secretary's words do not totally guarantee protection of our island but his recognition of it as a protected area is a good start." She thanked all the support groups for the unwavering commitment to their cause.
Mr. Fedelino Atrejenio of United Manicani Residents in Metro Manila urged his fellow Manicanians, “Not to lose hope. That in going home, they bring with them the promise of DENR Sec. Cimatu that he will protect the island since it's already part of a protected area".
With support from various groups, the PROMISI had been calling for the non-renewal of Hinatuan Mining Corporation's (HMC) Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA); ban on any new mining permit covering Manicani Island; upholding of the NIPAS Law which includes Manicani Island; and the Ban on Open-Pit Mining issued last year by DENR.
On the other hand, the Concerned Citizens of Sta. Cruz (CCOS), also a group whose hometown of Sta. Cruz in Zambales is besieged by six mining companies of which four MPSAs were already suspended by DENR joined SAMAMO/PROMISI's encampment last November 30. The group's leader Dr. Ben Molino said they will continue encampment in front of DENR until the agency upholds the suspension orders and refrain from issuing permits that allow nickel ore transport.
Fr. Juderick Calumpiano, Social Action Director of the Diocese of Borongan and Co-Convenors Committee member of PMPI was invited by PROMISI to officiate a send-off mass prior to folding up the camp. In his homily he said, “Those little victories were made possible because of God's presence. We are mere instruments of God's fight for the environment." He reminded everyone to stay faithful to God despite their difficulties. He ended the mass by stating a quote that he said can be found at the airport in Tacloban, "If you think the environment is less important than the economy, inhale, hold your breath and count your money."
“The people of Manicani, have already staked their lives for many years just to see their community free from mining. Now, they return home bringing with them the hope that no mining company will ever set foot on their island again. Their next challenge is to reclaim their land and rehabilitate it as well as to unite and heal the wounds of division in the island. With these developments, Christmas indeed has become more meaningful especially for the campers” said Yoly Esguerra, National Coordinator of PMPI.
‘tis the Season to Cry with Rage
As many Filipino families started lighting their Christmas trees to celebrate the holiday season, the number of families lighting candles to mourn loved ones who died from senseless killings continue to increase. From alleged drug personalities to human rights defenders.
On December 10, the Filipino people lighted a torch for peace and human rights as various groups marched and held actions in different parts of the nation to express their condemnation of the continuous killings, rights violations and narrowing down of democratic space in the country.
After the transfer of drug operation to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), there seems to be a drop in the number of drug-related killings reported in mainstream media and, yet communities continue to experience the attacks of their tormentors. PDEA reports showed only one drug suspect killed in 2,161 drug operations since it took over in October 2017. But the reality in the ground speaks otherwise.
Last November 23, after the government released the Proclamation 360 declaring the termination of the peace negotiations of government with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), reports of clashes between the military and the NPA resulted into the displacement of communities and families.
We are particularly concerned that the government has abandoned its avowed quest for peace in the declared termination of peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF. And as it stands now it is running berserk at ensuring that these groups are silenced.
Just last week, Fr. Marcelito “Tito” Paez of the Diocese of San Jose, was killed at gunpoint in Jaen, Nueva Ecija hours after helping the release of a political prisoner in Cabanatuan. Fr. Paez was a committed human rights advocate grounded in the experiences of families and communities and actively involved in the cause of the poor.
Several cases more of human rights violations were documented in the provinces as crackdown on the New People’s Army (NPA) by military forces continues. Just last week, religious leader Lovelito Quiñones was killed in a clash between the government troops and suspected NPA rebels in Oriental Mindoro. A young student activist from the University of the Philippines was among the 14 suspected New People's Army (NPA) rebels killed during an encounter with the military in Nasugbu, Batangas. Josephine Anne Lapira, 22, also an official of the left-leaning Gabriela Women's Party is among those killed. The encounter looks ruthless. All killed. The intent to demobilize and arrest them seem nowhere in the consciousness of the assailants. These rights violations committed against civilians, including the church, student and opposition leaders, journalists, artists, musicians and activists are clear indications of this administration’s determination to silence individuals and groups critical of the current dispensation.
Threats to human rights and progressive groups is increasingly alarming. Every day, the democratic space to discuss political and social issues and to demand accountability for human rights violations are becoming narrower for people. False promises, confusing policy pronouncements, and deceptive news are very much like noises that prevent people to discern and eventually assert their rights.
The Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc (PMPI), a network of church/religious groups, nongovernment organizations, and people’s organizations, calls on the people to continue to discern and pursue path to peace. We should continue to cry with rage and disgust with the utter disregard of the value of life and the rule of law.
We should demand fair investigations on the series of killings of students, religious, and those victims of drug-related operations. We appeal for the government to uphold the rule of law, listen to the voices of the people who cry for justice, and hope of a better country that recognizes and fulfills every person’s aspiration and dignity.
We need to stand firm and claim our rights.
Quezon City— An art installation entitled “IMAHEGRASYON” will be on display at the National Science Complex lobby in UP, Diliman featuring the plight of Manicani residents as they continue their protest in front of the DENR Central office against open-pit mining.
The art installation explores the many ways in which notions of voluntary and forced migrations of people are traced, located and negotiated. Used clothing, slippers and other material objects used by Manicani residents in their journey from Manicani Island in Eastern Samar to Quezon City are included and arranged on the floor of the gallery which serve as markers of transit and symbolize the movement of people from one place to another.
“Some choose to move out from their homes for better opportunities while there are others who are forced to flee due to war or famine and some move because of environmental threats bringing with them a few belongings. In the case of Manicani residents, they do not carry many possessions with them and do not have a clear idea of when they may finally go back, and these are the issues I want to present in this work” artist, Geri Matthew Carretero said.
Philippine Misereor Partnership Incorporated (PMPI) expressed support in the art installation and calls on President Duterte to uphold the ban on the open-pit method of mining for copper, gold, silver, and complex ores in the country through the DENR issued Administrative Order No. 2017-10.
“This exhibit is another great way to tell a chapter of Manicani’s long struggle against mining. As communities such as Manicani continue to suffer from mining, we remain hopeful that Secretary Cimatu of DENR comply with the President’s directive and implement the ban on open pit mining.” added Ms. Yoly Esguerra, National Coordinator of PMPI.
The work also highlights a variety of issues and concerns that represent other displaced groups such as the struggle of urban poor communities in Bulacan and Tondo for free housing, the internal displacement of Maranaos who involuntary fled their city due to war, and the Lumads who are forced to evacuate as military forces search for NPA members and sympathizers in their communities.
“The identities, experiences and collective memories of the plight of displaced groups and individuals are muted by institutions and those in power. This work will tell their stories about refuge, political and environmental turmoil, territorial struggle, compassion and hope” Carretero further added.
The installation is part of a class exhibit “Unwrapped”, which features 6 artists under the Master of Fine Arts Program of the UP College of Fine Arts, Diliman. The exhibit is open from 7am to 5pm and will run from December 8-15, 2017.
While miners celebrate Miners’ Day on December 6, communities made host to mining continue to suffer from it. While miners enjoy huge returns from their mining operations, affected communities struggle to make both ends meet from meager fish catch and limited agricultural production.
This is the case for Manicani and Homonhon, two island barangays off the coast of Guiuan in Eastern Samar as well as for Sta. Cruz in Zambales host to six large-scale mining projects. Thus, communities from Manicani and Sta. Cruz are now encamped at the DENR in Manila to express strong opposition to mining activities that negatively affected their lives.
In Manicani Island, the mining permit of Hinatuan Mining Corporation (HMC) expired last October 28, 2017. The residents are now calling for DENR to compel the same mining company to commence rehabilitation and leave the island for good. Afterall, the island is protected by the NIPAS law and a provincial ordinance that bans large-scale mining in Eastern Samar.
For Homonhon, which has barely 10,000 hectares of land, with a population of 8,000+ people and host to three mining companies (whose mining permits were cancelled by then Sec. Gina Lopez), they continue to struggle and seek for protection from such mining operations. The coastal area of the island is also protected by NIPAS while the entire island should be protected by the same provincial ordinance that bans large scale mining in Manicani.
Furthermore, in a watershed assessment commissioned by the Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI), it was found that endangered species inhabit the island such as the Philippine Cockatoo (in Homonhon and Philippine Mallard in Manicani. These species are endemic to the Philippines and found only in limited areas in the country. The report was submitted to the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) and we hope to hear soon what will be the bureau’s action on this. PMPI hopes that DENR acts on this immediately before these species are totally wiped out in the islands.
In Sta. Cruz, Zambales, permits of four mining companies were cancelled by then Sec. Gina Lopez but are also currently on appeal before the office of the President. It suffers the same fate as Homonhon. Despite the cry of the farmers whose only appeal was for the government to ensure that laterites coming from the mining operations do not flow down to their rice paddies and water systems that impacts their rice production and their water resources, the regional office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) continue to ignore such pleas. The suspension and/or cancellation orders were results of petitions filed by communities, but operations resumes and is on-going. The farmer’s petitions and sentiments seem to be falling on deaf ears.
In a meeting with MGB last December 5, PMPI raised the issue of the cancelled mining permits in these communities. However, MGB said that cancellation does not mean automatic stoppage of mining operation. By law, mining companies can appeal and while on appeal the situation is considered status quo. They can continue to operate. This is one of those many circumstances where we can see how mining companies are favored more than the communities. We cannot reckon why mining companies with suspended or cancelled mining permits are still allowed to operate just because they filed appeals. Isn’t a fair and just judgement would be no movement until authorities come up with a final decision? PMPI calls for the upholding of suspension and cancellation orders. It further calls on Secretary Cimatu to issue cancellation orders with finality, compel companies to commence rehabilitation works, and for these mining companies to leave these areas to the people.
If there’s such a Miners’ day, PMPI adds the narrative of the many farmers and fisherfolk who are victims of the mining industry. We fervently hope that DENR consider the lot of these farmers and fisherfolks currently encamped at the DENR; that they may also be given their most desired Christmas gift: to have their homes freed from mining – something that can also be commemorated as Freedom from Mining day!