There is no doubt that large-scale mining operations, like the one being undertaken by the Aglubang Mining Corp. in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro, cause irreparable devastation of farm lands. This was pointed out by the regional executive director of the Department of Agriculture in a July 7, 2009 letter to Environment Secretary Jose L. Atienza Jr.: “The Municipality of Sablayan is one of our major rice- and corn-producing areas in the province and we believe that any major mining operations would greatly affect the agriculture production and endanger social economic conditions in the area. With these, we are supporting the Honorable Mayor [the undersigned] in asking your help to preempt any mining activity in the municipality.”
Recently, as a result of Typhoon Jolina’s onslaught, Sablayan experienced heavy floods, landslides, soil erosion and scouring which rendered its national highways impassable for several weeks and caused huge and serious damage to crops, livestock and property, plus “opportunity loss.” Undoubtedly, large-scale mining would deplete Sablayan’s remaining forest and vegetation cover, aggravate river and coastal deterioration and increase incidents of landslide, soil erosion and, possibly, wipe out its forest cover.
It is for this reason that all of Sablayan’s 22 barangays and its Sangguniang Bayan are opposed to Aglubang’s mining operations and they have expressed their opposition through their respective resolutions and through a municipal ordinance which bears the approval of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Occidental Mindoro.
The people of Occidental Mindoro, and more particularly of Sablayan, prayerfully appeal to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Secretary Atienza to disallow the entry of Aglubang Mining Corp. into our town, in order that our town may continue to be the food basket of Region 4 and provide our people and the rest of the country the more than 300,000 metric tons of rice it produces every year.
—GODOFREDO B. MINTU,
Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro,
In support of the growing oppositon to the Mindoro Mining Project, The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines posted this position on its website:
Mining has always been repugnant to the residents of communities surrounding the mining sites. And this is true in the case of large-scale nickel- mining operation on Mindoro island which is being strongly resisted by the local folk. They fear the venture would cause environmental havoc. Indigenous peoples, farmers, fishermen, political, religious and civil society leaders in both Mindoro Occidental and Mindoro Oriental are calling for the immediate cancellation of the permit granted to the Aglubang Mining Corp. to extract nickel over an area deep in the mountains totaling 9,720 hectares.
The government approved in 2001 the mineral production sharing agreement of the Aglubang Mining Corp., a subsidiary of the Crew Minerals of Canada. But the Department of Environment and Natural Resources revoked the agreement as quickly as it was granted because the authorities found out that it posed a grave threat to critical watershed that would adversely affect farming, the livelihood and even health of the people.
In canceling the permit, then Environment Secretary Heherson Alvarez said that the Mindoro Nickel Project was one case where sustainability was bound to fail. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is fully aware of the situation. Her administration is committed to create wealth without sacrificing the integrity and vitality of Mindoro’s natural systems. What does it gain the nation to be short-sighted and merely think of money, when an irreparable damage to the environment will cost human lives, health and livelihood capacity of our farmers and fisherfolk, endangering the food security of our people?
But the move to shelve the nickel- mining venture turned out to be only temporary. In late 2005, the Office of the President reversed the DENR decision revoking the Aglubang’s mining permit. The Canadian firm’s president Jan Vestrun trumpeted that there was a change in attitude of the government of the Philippines towards mining, from that of tolerance to active promotion.
The government’s turnaround defies logic because the very law invoked by the project proponents—Republic Act 7942 (Philippine Mining Act of l995)—expressly provides in Section 19 thereof that among the areas closed to mining activities are watershed areas. Since the area covered by the Mindoro Nickel Project is within a protected watershed reservation, where is the justification to reverse the cancellation of the mining permit?
It is an undisputed fact that the Mindoro Nickel Project does not have an iota of social acceptability on the part of the Mindoreños. Without the consent of the people as required by law, the mining venture is deemed illegal and the mining permit issued to Aglubang Corp. is void from the start.
The public opposition is reflected in separate resolutions adopted by the municipal council of Sablayan, Mindoro Occidental and the town’s 22 barangays expressing their vigorous opposition to the mining project. In an open letter to President Arroyo and Environment Secretary Lito Atienza, Sablayan Mayor Godofredo Mintu said any major mining operations would greatly affect agriculture production and endanger social and economic conditions in Sablayan which is one of thee leading rice and corn-producing towns in Mindoro.
Recently, according to Mayor Mintu, a killer typhoon battered the province, causing heavy flooding and landslides that damaged crops and rendered the national highway impassable for several weeks. He warned that large-scale mining would deplete the town’s remaining forest and vegetation cover, aggravate river and soil siltations that would cause an an ecological disaster.
Economic progress at the expense of the displacement of indigenous peoples, food security and environmental destruction is, to put it simply, wrong. I am proud of the Provincial and Municipal governments of Occ. Mindoro and Sablayan for defending the interests of its people and its natural resources. Notwithstanding the pressure from powerful forces and resisting tempting offers (some of which from the National Government, I am certain), your efforts are truly admirable and greatly appreciated.
If you chance upon this blog, please do me a favor and spread the word. Help us save my hometown from further destruction.