Islanders celebrate recall of HMC’s permit to haul ore
“Finally, the hauling has stopped. We thought we’ll see our island waste away first.”
This is one of the sentiments of residents of Manicani, an island several kilometers off the coast of Guiuan town in Eastern Samar upon receiving the news that finally, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), through Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has released an order to stop the hauling of ore stockpiles from their island.
GAPING. One of the gullies in barangay Buenavista in the island of Manicani shows where the mining company in the area extracted what have became loads of sitting stockpiles in the area. The stockpiles have been shipped to its buyer in China through hauling operations, which started May this year.
“We are rejoicing that finally, the DENR listened to us and that the MGB has now officially recalled the ore transport permit issued to Hinatuan Mining Corp. (HMC),” Rebecca Destajo, an official of Protect Manicani Island Society Inc. (PROMISI) said.
Destajo, a councilwoman of a barangay in Manicani, added that they are thankful DENR Sec. Regina Lopez met their group and understood their concerns.
In a one-page letter from the MGB Region 8 with an attached order from the Central Office, OIC Regional Director Raul Laput on August 2 wrote to HMC that the office is recalling all the permits for ore transport and mineral export.
Since Lopez took a seat as its chief, DENR has been conducting a series of audit to existing mining operations in the country in an effort to address the “disturbance of the ecological balance” of mining host communities.
Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. National Coordinator Yoly Esguerra welcomed this development and expressed hope that the Government will continue to stand path in its positions against destructive mining.
“It’s been a long time coming but we acknowledge this unity among government agencies and the peoples’ organization, uniting to protect the small islands, home to communities and many other creatures,” she said.
Esguerra emphasized that the next step is to revoke the mining permit of Hinatuan Mining Company which is to end in October 2017.
Borongan Social Action Director Rev. Odick Calumpiano, reveling on this development, re-echoed the call of Pope Francis to put importance to immediate action towards the protection of our common home over destructive practices.
“It is now time that the government seek accountability from this mining company and ensure that it rehabilitates the islands, even while it plans to help in the livelihood of the people in the community,” Father Odick said.
The priest shared that their community is looking forward to the restoration of the ecosystems of the island for its sustainability, “addressing as well the needs of the people without compromising our environment.”
The farmers of Manicani are likewise looking forward to the improvement of the agriculture in the island.
“We have had efforts. But all the time these are thwarted because many farmers were lured out of their field, and depended on easy money from mining, which only worsen the condition of our land. Nothing is arable if we continue on this track,” Manuel Gagap, a farmer from one of the barangays of Manicani said.
Gagap recalled that before, their island was able to produce fruits from the trees, vegetables and other crops being cultivated in the upland areas of the island.
“When we see everyday the state of our mountains, we fear the future of our children. After they have taken out what they wanted, there will be no more left for us here. We will end up vacating the island,” he lamented.
Marcial Somooc, a fisherman and a council member of Barangay Buenavista, said that mining should not be allowed in small islands ever.
“We don’t want other islands to suffer the same fate as ours. Other islands must learn from what happened to us. We’ve become bare and vulnerable because of the extractive operation,” Somooc said.
PMPI curently supports the campaign of the people of Manicani against destructive mining operation at the same time facilitate rehabilitation and island development through programs such as coastal resource management, sustainable agriculture, integrative health, alternative energy and radio communication, water infrastructure, disaster risk reduction and preparedness education, and building of resilient houses and evacuation in every barangay.
“There is no harm in going back to the land and the seas. After all, both government and the non-government institutions are helping us. We should help as well to nurture our island back to its health. There is no other option,” Somooc added.
PMPI is network of about 300 civil society organizations and church-based groups in involve in social development work. Other non-government organizations supporting the island in its bid to stop mining in Manicani include SANLAKAS, Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) and Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ).