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!