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.